Mnangagwa releases Motlanthe report into army post-election killings

Staff Writer

A masked soldier shoots at fleeing civilians in central Harare on August 1 this year as his commanding officer yells at him to cease fire.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has released the report by a commission of inquiry into post-election violence in which members of the Zimbabwe National Army deployed to quell protests in central Harare on August 1 shot and killed six unarmed civilians.

Former South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe led the multinational probe team, whose report blames the country’s security forces for killing six people and injuring 35 others during post-election protests in Harare.

The protests were triggered by opposition supporters who were outraged by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s delays in releasing the results of the presidential poll amidst opposition fears of vote-rigging in favour of Mnangagwa.  The military responded heavy-handedly to the protests, deploying armoured vehicles and troops who shot live rounds at fleeing civilians in central Harare.

In its key findings, the Motlanthe report blamed the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance, stating that “the demonstrations which became riotous and caused extensive damage to property and injury had been incited, pre-planned and well-organised by the MDC Alliance.”

However, the probe team’s report condemned the use of live ammunition directed at people “especially when they were fleeing” as “clearly unjustified and disproportionate”.

“The use of sjamboks, baton sticks, rifle butts to assault members of the public was disproportionate,” the report stated.

The commission also found that “the particular circumstances prevailing on the day justified the deployment of the Military to assist the Police in containing the riots”, and that the government’s deployment of the army was constitutional and lawful, although it failed to fully comply with the operational framework of the Public Order and Security Act in putting the deployed troops under the command of the head of police in Harare.

The commission’s report said the protests were not limited to Harare but spread to other areas such as Gweru. It said the demonstrations started peacefully and degenerated into violence.

Reading from the commission’s report as he launched it in Harare on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said: “The commission’s findings on a balance of probabilities from all the evidence is that the deaths of the six people and injuries sustained by 35 others arose from the actions of the military and the police,” .

Six people were said to be injured as a result of the actions of the protesters.

The commission said during the protests police forces were depleted, ill-equipped and overwhelmed due to deployment elsewhere for elections, hence help was sought from the military to deal with the protesters.

The report recommended that police should investigate and ensure that all people who committed crimes on August 1 are prosecuted. Police must be trained to be professional and non-partisan.

It said police officers and soldiers who were in breach of their duties should be identified and there should be internal hearings and sanctions.

The commission said the Public Order and Security Act must be aligned with the constitution to deal with the deployment of the army. It said the deployment of the military during riots should be done as a last resort in extraordinary circumstances and the use of live ammunition during protests should be discouraged.

The commission said during hearings, especially in Bulawayo, it noted persisting grievances, especially in Matabeleland, over the 1980’s Gukurahundi massacre where close to 20 000 people were said to have been killed when former president Robert Mugabe deployed a crack unit to deal with so-called dissidents. However, people in those areas accuse Mugabe of having attempted ethnic cleansing and targeting minorities.

In its recommendations, the Motlanthe commission said there must be compensation for victims and the deceased in the post-election violence.

In cases where the deceased left young children, they must urgently be assisted with school fees and general welfare. It said there is a need for medical help for one of the victims who still has a bullet lodged in his leg.

The commission said there is a need for the registration of political parties to ensure accountability as well as a thorough review of all laws to deal with hate speech, cyber-space and incitement to commit violence.

There was a recommendation for parliament to consider amending electoral laws to shorten the time in which election results must be announced after voting. Currently the law says presidential poll results should be out within five days. A multi-party initiative facilitated by local and foreigners was suggested to ensure national healing.

Mnangagwa said government was studying the recommendations and will decide on the way forward. – Additional reporting by Mail & Guardian.

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