Zim post­elec­tion vi­o­lence re­port lam­basted

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Zim­babwe has been left more po­larised po­lit­i­cally, af­ter op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties and civil so­ci­ety ex­pressed their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the out­come of a probe into the vi­o­lence that rocked the coun­try fol­low­ing the July 30 elec­tions, which gave the Zanu-PF’s Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa a man­date to lead the coun­try. The probe was con­ducted by a com­mis­sion of in­quiry, chaired by for­mer South African pres­i­dent Kgalema Mot­lanthe.

Dur­ing post-elec­tion protests in the cap­i­tal, Harare, six peo­ple were killed and many oth­ers in­jured, dent­ing Mnan­gagwa’s al­ready com­pro­mised im­age – hav­ing held a se­ries of Cabi­net port­fo­lios in for­mer leader Robert Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the deputy pres­i­dency – and cast­ing as­per­sions on his pledge to be a re­formist, keen to walk a dif­fer­ent path from that of his pre­de­ces­sor.

Mot­lanthe’s com­mis­sion was given a three-month ten­ure to de­ter­mine who had caused the vi­o­lence and re­veal the cir­cum­stances that led to the civil­ian deaths, es­pe­cially since the mil­i­tary had been de­ployed to dis­perse op­po­si­tion pro­tes­tors. The troops were ac­cused of us­ing live am­mu­ni­tion against the un­armed civil­ians and of shoot­ing them at point-blank range.

The com­mis­sion re­leased a re­port this week, de­tail­ing its find­ings.

Among those crit­i­cal of the re­port is Bless­ing Gore­jena, direc­tor for the Zim­babwe Hu­man Rights NGO Fo­rum, a coali­tion of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in the coun­try. Speak­ing to City Press on the phone on Fri­day, she said: “The re­port had so many con­tra­dic­tions. We just no­ticed that it is at­tempt­ing to blame ev­ery­one and it is also try­ing to cover up the ac­tual per­son who gave the com­mand [for sol­diers to shoot].

“The ba­sic prin­ci­ples around the right to know, the right to repa­ra­tions for vic­tims, the right to jus­tice and the guar­an­tees to non-re­cur­rence were slightly touched on, but they were not ad­e­quately ad­dressed.”

In his fore­word to the re­port, Mot­lanthe said the com­mis­sion had been “es­tab­lished with the pur­pose of help­ing to heal the coun­try from the wounds oc­ca­sioned by the deeply re­gret­table deaths of six peo­ple, the in­juries to many, as well as de­struc­tion of prop­erty” in Harare’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict (CBD).

It is also al­leged that sol­diers were de­ployed to var­i­ous suburbs, where they re­port­edly ha­rassed and beat up res­i­dents ahead of the re­lease of the re­sult of the July 30 pres­i­den­tial vote.

“The elec­toral process was gen­er­ally peace­ful un­til Au­gust 1, when many demon­stra­tors took to the streets of Harare, de­mand­ing the im­me­di­ate re­lease of the elec­tion re­sults,” the com­mis­sion’s re­port states.

“These events – par­tic­u­larly those that oc­curred within Harare’s CBD – re­sulted in the deaths of six peo­ple, the in­jury of 35 peo­ple and mas­sive dam­age to prop­er­ties.”

Com­ment­ing on the re­port, Mnan­gagwa said this week that he was “sat­is­fied that the com­mis­sion of in­quiry had dili­gently car­ried out its man­date”.

How­ever, many stake­hold­ers and op­po­si­tion par­ties dis­agree, in­sist­ing that the re­port failed to present a clear pic­ture of what had hap­pened be­yond what was al­ready in the pub­lic do­main.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Wendy Mu­peri told City Press that “the Au­gust 1 shoot­ings cast a dark shadow on Mnan­gagwa’s pres­i­dency” and his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“His gov­ern­ment al­ready ap­pears un­will­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for an ob­vi­ous crime against hu­man­ity,” she said.

A damn­ing med­i­cal ev­i­dence re­port – re­leased last month by the Zim­babwe As­so­ci­a­tion of Doc­tors for Hu­man Rights – claims that 11 pa­tients sus­tained gun­shot wounds, while there were as many as 22 cases of as­sault and beat­ings by peo­ple iden­ti­fied as ei­ther se­cu­rity forces or Zanu-PF ac­tivists.

In their re­port, the doc­tors say vic­tims of the post­elec­tion vi­o­lence “ex­hib­ited signs and symp­toms con­sis­tent with phys­i­cal and emo­tional trauma as they were left at the mercy of sjam­boks, but­ton sticks, the butt of a gun, open fists and booted feet”.

Fam­ily mem­bers of some of the de­ceased told City Press in con­fi­dence that they had no op­tion but to go on with the lives. They lamented the lack of clo­sure re­gard­ing their loved ones’ vi­o­lent deaths, say­ing the re­port did not iden­tify those specif­i­cally re­spon­si­ble for the “ex­e­cu­tions”.

They crit­i­cised the lack of clear ac­count­abil­ity on the part of the mil­i­tary, whose com­man­ders in­sisted they did not open fire de­spite ev­i­dence prov­ing oth­er­wise.

“We are mov­ing on in our protest be­cause we have suf­fered a lot. We ex­pected that those re­spon­si­ble would have been named and brought to jus­tice,” said one of the de­ceased’s fam­ily mem­bers.

“There is ev­i­dence that peo­ple were shot dead. We have seen ef­forts to cover up things from mis­rep­re­sented death cer­tifi­cates, which said the cause of death was stab wounds. This is a chap­ter in the coun­try’s his­tory that will not fade from our mem­ory.”

Mnan­gagwa’s big­gest ri­val, Nel­son Chamisa, the leader of the op­po­si­tion MDC Al­liance, said this week that the party “re­jects the re­port in its en­tirety”, lam­bast­ing it as noth­ing more than an “at­tempt to blame the vic­tims” of the vi­o­lence.

A state­ment re­leased by the MDC Al­liance reads as fol­lows: “The out­come of the com­mis­sion’s re­port shows that it is bent on white­wash­ing the killing of un­armed, in­no­cent civil­ians by sol­diers. The com­mis­sion was com­pro­mised, so it could not fin­ger those who stole power.

“Jus­tice has not been done, vic­tims are turn­ing in their graves, fam­i­lies have been in­sulted and mil­lions in tax­pay­ers’ money have been wasted.”

Other civil so­ci­ety lead­ers echoed the op­po­si­tion’s ac­cu­sa­tions of waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture and ac­cused the com­mis­sion of hav­ing dis­re­garded the ev­i­dence pre­sented at the hear­ings.

The se­lec­tion cri­te­ria of those who tes­ti­fied be­fore the com­mis­sion was also crit­i­cised. The civil so­ci­ety lead­ers said they had raised con­cerns “about the is­sue of trans­parency and methodology that the com­mis­sion was us­ing”, ar­gu­ing that this was never made pub­lic.

Kgalema Mot­lanthe

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