AS President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara signed a power-sharing deal and spoke about their commitment to nation building through unity of purpose, it turned out to be the total opposite outside the closed doors as party supporters from the MDC and Zanu PF fought running battles yesterday.
In action that showed that most did not know much about the letter and spirit of the deal, Zanu PF and MDC supporters hurled insults at each other before violence broke out.
What started as a cheerful and colourful gathering in the morning turned dirty and bloody with a number of both MDC and Zanu PF supporters taken to hospital while the Rainbow Towers Hotel was damaged.
Most of the violence occurred outside the hotel grounds where a number of supporters were denied entry by police into the conference auditorium, the venue of the signing in ceremony was taking place.
The hotelâ€™s perimetre fence close to the main entrance was pulled down as the MDC and Zanu PF youths were engaged in running battles, while others scampered for safety.
The police were outnumbered during the skirmishes and had to fire warning shots to cow the rowdy activists.Â Â Â
Apart from the violence, Zanu PF and MDC supporters had converged at the hotel around 7am where they sang, danced and chanted their partiesâ€™ slogans under the watchful eye of the police.
MDC supporters who outnumbered Zanu PF activists drowned the voices of their rivals and repeatedly broke into song and dance praising Tsvangirai.
They sang â€œTsvangirai chitonga zvako, Zanu yakoniwaâ€ (Tsvangirai you can now rule, Zanu PF has failed) and â€œPamberi naTsvangirai vanosunungura Zimbabwe.â€ (Forward with Tsvangirai, the liberator of Zimbabwe).
But in counter rebuke, Zanu PF sang â€œVaudze vasaine bepa racho hondo hatidiâ€ (Mugabe tell them to sign the paper we do not want war) and â€œTsvangirai haulume feya feya (Tsvangirai wonâ€™t rule)â€.
Botswana President Ian Khama, who two months ago openly said he did not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president after the June 27 run-off, got the loudest applause from mainly MDC supporters who described him as a champion of democracy.
The excited supporters also hailed African Union chairperson and Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete.
They shouted â€œKhama vakuru vedemocracyâ€ and â€œKikwete, Kikweteâ€.
As time ticked closer to the signing, there were hundreds of people shoving to gain entry into the conference and it was apparent that the police were not prepared to handle the volume of the people.
â€œWe did not anticipate such a huge crowd,â€ a police officer said. â€œWe thought the occasion was only for diplomats and invited guests.â€
Inside the conference hall, both MDC and Zanu PF parliamentarians dominated the VIP sections. Diplomats and journalists were also in attendance while, Zanu PF and the MDC had â€˜rentedâ€™ crowds.
When Sadc heads of state and government strolled into the conference to take their seats and witnesses the inking of the deal, Khama was once again hailed by MDC supporters who shouted â€œKhama, Khama pamberi nedemocracyâ€.
Both MDC and Zanu PF applauded Tsvangirai and Mugabe when they entered the conference, while Mutambara was first booed before Zanu PF parliamentarians acknowledged his presence.
Sitting at the left far end on the high table was Mutambara and next was Mugabe, then King Mswati, Mbeki, Kikwete and Tsvangirai.
Mswati officially opened the proceedings before Mbeki invited Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara to sign the agreement. Mbeki also signed as a signatory.
After signing on the dotted lines, it was then time for speeches with Mutambara, deputy prime minister designate, first taking to the podium calling for commitment in the implementation of the deal.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s prepared speech was received with cheers and the former trade unionist was conciliatory in his speech.
The 84-year-old Mugabeâ€™s speech received mixed reactions â€” Zanu PF parliamentarians and supporters clapped and chanted his totem when he lambasted Britain and the United States for allegedly interfering in the countryâ€™s internal affairs.
But the MDC supporters booed Mugabe when he claimed that opposition parties in Africa used violence to effect regime change.
After Mswati and Mbeki spoke, it was time for group photographs.
Outside the conference hall, government officials like presidential spokesman George Charamba, Minister of Science and Technology Olivia Muchena and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbegegwi were called derogatory names as they passed through the main entrance.
By Wongai Zhangazha