The commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), General Philip Valerio Sibanda, has blamed opposition political parties for the ugly scenes of violence witnessed in Harare just after the July 30 harmonised elections.
At least six people have since died from the violence after soldiers deployed to quell the disturbances used live ammunition in a bid to drive protesters out of central Harare.
This was after angry MDC Alliance supporters had besieged the streets of Harare to vent out their frustrations over what they perceived as bias on the part of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, accused of favouring Zanu PF.
While critics point accusing fingers at the military, the top dog at ZDF has passed the buck to the opposition parties, saying they incited the violence.
“Zimbabwe remains secure despite the recent politically-motivated violence that erupted a day after the harmonised elections on 30 July, 2018,” said Sibanda in his Defence Forces’ Day message.
“That notwithstanding, the country has continued to enjoy peace, security and stability during the harmonised elections.
“Had it not been for evil intentions of some opposition political players who went on to incite violent protests, unnecessary loss of life of six people who were caught up in the unfortunate shooting incidents could have been avoided.
“All the same, the ZDF remains resolute in its support for the ZRP as they continue to fulfil their constitutional mandate of maintenance of law and order to ensure peace, security and stability in the country.
“People are therefore, assured that they should feel free to go about their usual business.”
In spite of Sibanda’s spirited defence of the uniformed forces, the international community and even the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) have blamed the ZDF for its heavy-handedness in dealing with civilians.
In a damning report issued last week, ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said the use of live ammunition and excessive use of force on civilians was uncalled for.
Mugwadi said while the commission does not in any way support violence, hooliganism or vandalism by any protester, constitutionally there were better ways of managing protests without infringing on the rights of citizens, especially the right to life which must be jealously guarded by all State institutions and at all times.
“ZHRC urges that the army only be deployed where necessary for law and order and in strict compliance with the relevant legal provisions and internationally accepted standards, including restrictions on the use of live ammunition against protesters.
“To us it is very much criminal. It is a criminal act to kill someone,” said Mugwadi.
“While there are investigations, there was a violation of peoples’ rights — the right to life.
“That is the fundamental right, the right of all rights. We will on our own part investigate and try to find out why this happened the way it did,” he added.
President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has since made an undertaking to establish an independent commission to get to the bottom of the matter.
The pre-voting period had been characterised by peaceful campaigns and a camaraderie spirit.
But this was immediately sullied by the deadly clashes between opposition supporters and security agents.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa has pledged to reward the ZDF while also blaming the MDC Alliance for the violent protests that erupted in Harare two weeks ago.
Addressing members of the country’s security forces during yesterday’s Defence Forces Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Mnangagwa described the incident as “barbaric”.
“I am, however, deeply concerned with the incidents of violence that rocked the streets of Harare at the instigation of some members of the MDC Alliance leadership, which subsequently resulted in the loss of life, injuries to many and loss of property,” Mnangagwa said adding that ‘‘we strongly condemn such barbaric acts”
Mnangagwa said violence and intolerance have no place in the new Zimbabwe that he is attempting to establish.
He accused the opposition of taking advantage of his democratic principles saying it was time to “bury our political difference and move forward”.
He hailed the security sector for being a source of national pride through their “sterling” contributions in various regional and international peace keeping missions.
“We are committed to comprehensively addressing your conditions of service and your housing needs as well as equipping our forces with new equipment because currently some they are using dates back 30 years,” he said.