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Security forces to blame for Zim post-election fatalities

Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa has made public a post-election violence probe team’s report which blames the country’s security forces for fatally shooting six people and injuring 35 others during post-election protests in Harare.

Mnangagwa constituted the commission of enquiry, chaired by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, to investigate the August 1 violence in Harare.

The protests appeared to have been triggered by delays in releasing the results of the presidential poll amid fears of rigging. Mnangagwa won the election but his main rival, Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition MDC, did not concede defeat saying the election was rigged.

Reading out the commission’s findings in Harare on Monday, Mnangagwa said the Motlanthe commission established that six people were killed and 35 others were injured by the military and the police during protests it said were pre-planned.

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.

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“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,” Mnangagwa said.

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 said the military was deployed in terms of the law.

It said there is no doubt that many demonstrators became riotous, burning cars and destroying property.

“However the use of live ammunition directed at people especially when they were fleeing was clearly unjustified and disproportionate. The use of sjamboks, baton sticks, rifle butts to assault members of the public was disproportionate,” Mnangagwa said, reading the commission’s report.

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.

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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.

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Kudzai Mashininga
Kudzai Mashininga

Mashininga is an experienced Zimbabwean journalist.

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