After a near-farcical start, temperatures rose a notch up yesterday at the government’s commission of inquiry into the August 1 post-election violence — which ended up with the army killing at least six civilians — when the probe team was challenged to name the person who deployed soldiers onto the streets on that fateful day.
This came as a Harare man — whose wife was killed in the ugly disturbances — also separately upped the ante by demanding compensation from the military for causing the death of his spouse.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed the inquiry in September, to probe the August 1 deaths which sullied the relatively peaceful July 30 national elections which had, until the killings, been widely hailed.
Mnangagwa’s seven-member commission is led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.
The other members of the team are academics Lovemore Madhuku and Charity Manyeruke, Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) ex-president Vimbai Nyemba, Rodney Dixon of the United Kingdom, former Tanzanian chief of the defence forces General Davis Mwamunyange and ex-Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.
MDC youth assembly secretary-general Lovemore Chinoputsa — who said he was giving testimony in his individual capacity — challenged the Motlanthe-led commission to ensure that the nation would be told who had deployed the military to quell the August 1 disturbances.
Chinoputsa also fired salvos at the commission, which he claimed was wrongly constituted as some of its commissioners were “sympathetic” to the government and “were likely to protect its interests”.
“I have fought against the (ousted former president Robert) Mugabe regime ever since I was a teenager and he would always use the police.
“It is evident how powerful the military has become in this country. It played a critical role in the removal of Mugabe. It has since taken an active role in government.
“For any deployment of the military, the commander-in-chief should know … I say let’s go to … Mnangagwa today and find out who gave the instructions. If he is not in control, let it be known today,” Chinoputsa challenged the commissioners.
“This mentality of wanting to chlorinate ourselves by putting the mud on the opposition is not ideal for the new relationship in the new dispensation,” he said further.
Chinoputsa also claimed that there was a third force behind the August 1 violence which has been blamed on the MDC by some of the witnesses who have so far given testimonies to the commission.
“There are filmed videos of the violence, but so far, no one has been arrested. All who died that day had no link to the MDC.
“People had no … command from the MDC leadership to demonstrate,” he added, absolving the country’s largest opposition party from the violence.
Chinoputsa also threw barbs at some of the commissioners whom he accused of serving government interests on the panel — and insisted that their presence was likely to cast doubts on the independence of the commission’s findings.
He said the secretary of the commission Virginia Mabiza — who is also the Justice permanent secretary — had once served directly under Mnangagwa when he was still vice president, making her unlikely to perform her task impartially.
The youthful political activist also questioned the involvement of Nyemba — whom he claimed had “suddenly” become an ever-present on so many government projects”.
“She is on every other new board. One gets to wonder, is she the only one so intelligent to deal with these issues?” Chinoputsa said — adding that Manyeruke should not have been on the commission because she held a position in Zanu PF.
Meanwhile, another Harare man — Tokozani Robert Maposa — through his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, has given the military a 30-day ultimatum to accept liability and pay him compensation for the death of his wife Sylvia, who was shot dead during the August 1 demonstrations.
In a letter dated October 15, 2018, which was written to Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Maposa blamed the army for the death of his wife who worked at the State-owned entity, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).
“As you are aware, the actions of the army in opening fire using live ammunition against an unarmed civilian who was facing away from the line of fire was not only unlawful, but constituted a gross violation of the army’s constitutional obligation to protect citizens.
“It was a result of the army’s gross deliberate actions that the deceased lost her life which resulted in the dependent’s family members losing their means of support, in addition to suffering the unimaginable trauma of seeing a loved one being the subject of social media exchanges with visible bullet wounds on the back,” Maposa said in his letter of demand.
“We therefore give you notice of the intended legal suit and would be grateful to hear from you regarding your attitude on the issue of liability.
“If we have not heard from you within 30 calendar days of this letter, we shall assume that you are denying liability, in which event we shall thereafter proceed in the best interests of our client without further notice to you,” he said.
Maposa also said his wife was the family’s breadwinner as he was not employed.
Muchinguri-Kashiri is yet to respond to the letter.
The August 1 killings came after Mnangagwa had been credited with presiding over the most peaceful election process in post-independent Zimbabwe — where, for the first time, the opposition was able to campaign freely in rural areas which are traditional strongholds of the ruling Zanu PF.
Following the deaths, the opposition also asserted that suspected security agents had targeted senior MDC Alliance officials and polling agents in a violent programme following the insistence by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa that he had won the July 30 presidential election.
All this was seen by observers as harming Mnangagwa’s quest to mend years of Zimbabwe’s political and economic isolation by Western governments.
Prior to this, analysts had said the 76-year-old Zanu PF leader had done enough to project himself and his administration as being significantly different from Mugabe — who was universally accused of despotism and running Zimbabwe into the ground.