Zim postelection violence report lambasted
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.