Former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe will lead a seven-member commission of inquiry tasked with investigating circumstances leading to the post-election violence of August 1.
The appointment of the commission by President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday has sent shivers down the spines of officials in the security establishment because its terms of reference extend to establishing the reasonableness of the degree of force used to disperse the protesters.
At least six civilians lost their lives during the demonstrations.
Mnangagwa, who has been under pressure from the local and international community to probe the fatalities, has opted for the level-headed Motlanthe to bring out the truth over the killings.
The heinous act, which led to the death of seven civilians, has unfurled distrust in government amid indications that there could be another centre of power in Mnangagwa’s administration.
Motlanthe will led a team comprising former Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku from Nigeria, former Chief of Defence Forces of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces general Davis Mwamunyange, Rodney Dixon QC from United Kingdom, professor Charity Manyeruke, professor Lovemore Madhuku and former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Vimbai Nyemba.
Aged 69, Motlanthe served as president of South Africa between September 25, 2008 and May 9, 2009 following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki.
After the end of his presidency, he was appointed as the deputy president of South Africa by his successor, Jacob Zuma.
He served as deputy president of the African National Congress from 2007 until 2012, when he declined to run for a second term.
Addressing journalists yesterday Mnangagwa said the commission will identify who was behind the killing of civilians.
“The terms of reference for the commission are as follows: to inquire into the circumstances leading to the 1st of August, 2018 post-election violence. To investigate the actors and their leaders, their motive and strategies employed in the protest.
“To inquire into the intervention by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in the maintenance of law and order; to investigate the circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order,” said Mnangagwa.
According to the president the commission is also set to consider whether the degree of force used by the security forces was appropriate.
Upon the swearing-in of the commission, it should be able to complete its investigations within three months and report its findings to the president in writing.
Opposition and civic rights groups put the blame squarely on the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and its leadership after soldiers were captured on videos firing indiscriminately into petrified and fleeing protesters.
The demonstrators had poured onto the streets of Harare on August 1, to vent their anger at inordinate delays by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in announcing results of the presidential election.
Supporters of the main MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa were livid at the time that the much-maligned Zec was manipulating the votes in favour of Zanu PF.
The angry protesters burnt Zanu PF vehicles, tore Mnangagwa’s posters and went on a rampage in the city overpowering the police.
It was when the police were found wanting that choppers and armoured military vehicles rolled into Harare’s central business district where soldiers momentarily turned the capital into a war zone, beating and shooting the protesters.
To date, no one, including the ZDF commander Philip Valerio Sibanda, has taken responsibility on the deployment of soldiers most of whose faces were covered in balaclavas.
While the world blamed Mnangagwa for the violent quashing of the protests, the president has consistently blamed the MDC Alliance for inciting their supporters into rioting.
“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 regrettable loss of lives, injury to persons and damage to property,” Mnangagwa said during the Defence Forces Day commemorations.
Analysts, however, contend that Mnangagwa could have compromised the commission of inquiry by rushing to blame the main opposition party over the disturbances.