An angry opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, yesterday threw the gauntlet at both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga — challenging them to also testify at the official probe looking into the August 1 killings which saw at least six civilians being shot dead in Harare.
This comes after Chamisa was asked to appear before the Commission of Inquiry which was set up by Mnangagwa to investigate the deadly shootings — which followed ugly demonstrations in the capital soon after the disputed July 30 elections.
This, in turn, followed the testimonies of army and police chiefs, who suggested this week that a militant wing in the MDC — the Vanguard — was responsible for the shootings.
Addressing a press conference in Harare yesterday, Chamisa said the spirit of fairness dictated that the Commission of Inquiry also called Mnangagwa and Chiwenga to come and answer to allegations that they had deployed the military in the capital to quell the August 1 violence.
“If they are to be fair, what is good for the goose must certainly be good for the gander. They must be able to invite Mnangagwa. They must be able to invite Chiwenga.
“That is why we have said there is folly in that commission because you cannot invite Mnangagwa so that you report to him.
“Mnangagwa cannot investigate himself because he has been implicated. We would like to see if Mnangagwa is invited. If he is not invited, why should I go alone?” Chamisa asked rhetorically.
“We are extremely concerned by the attitude of the State institutions, particularly our army, particularly our police, in that they view the MDC — a key national State actor — as an opponent.
“We do not seek to replace the army. We do not seek to replace the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation). We do not seek to replace the police. We seek to remove those at the top who are abusing these institutions because that is what the Constitution asks us to do,” Chamisa added.
“We are not a prohibited organisation. We are represented in Parliament. In fact, we are a government in local governments.
“Mnangagwa can say that he was declared (winner), but to be declared there must be a contestant. So, we are part of the matrix of government.
“So in that context, you cannot try to bastardise or criminalise our activities, as has happened in the past,” Chamisa said further — referring to the arrest of the late former Vice President Joshua Nkomo, who was tormented by ousted former president Robert Mugabe in the 1980s on accusations of training dissidents.
Mnangagwa appointed the current inquiry in September, to probe the August 1 deaths which sullied the relatively peaceful July 30 national elections which had been widely hailed up to that point.
The 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.
Things at the probe got heated this week after security chiefs testified on Monday, wholly absolving the military of the killings in the process.
The commander of the Defence Forces, Phillip Valerio Sibanda, and police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga, also appeared to blame the MDC and Chamisa for the deaths.
In ominous remarks, Sibanda also said the military would soon be availing evidence showing that the army did not kill people on the fateful day — instead, fingering an outfit called the Vanguard, which is a militant group linked to the MDC youth wing.
“The possibility of the Vanguard, the military group within the MDC Alliance youth league, having weapons and having used these weapons during the disturbances on that day cannot be overruled.
“There is no hard evidence that the army shot at the civilians, but it is also believed that members of the MDC’s Vanguard could have been armed,” the reclusive general told the commission.
Matanga also told the commission that police had temporarily shelved plans to arrest Chamisa because of ongoing political talks which were aimed at giving the youthful politician a top post in Parliament.
“I still feel that it would be very improper to arrest the leader of the opposition party in the name of … Chamisa because this is a position that was formed by the president.
“I still feel today that the president’s doors are open and (so) I cannot arrest Chamisa. But all the same, I can say crime does not rot like meat and anytime he can be arrested,” he said.
In the meantime, a defiant Chamisa told journalists yesterday that he was ready for any eventuality.
“We are ready for any eventuality. They can arrest me but they cannot arrest the economy. Problems are not solved by vindictiveness. Problems are not solved by revenge.
“They (security forces) searched Harvest House since this party was formed, but they have not found any arms. They have only found love. But now, they say you contested and defeated me in an election so I will punish you.
“If you look at all the witnesses, not a single citizen has an issue with Chamisa except some in the State, who are working on a scripted and well-choreographed narrative to try and say Chamisa must come,” he said.
“How does Matanga speak about incitement and then say Chamisa has been given a position, and therefore we are waiting. Why should law enforcement be subjected to some of those vicissitudes of political considerations?
“It shows you there are issues to nudge me into a forced arrangement, into a forced marriage, into a rape. I want love not rape.
“This is why I have said we want dialogue in this country. We have said to Mnangagwa these are the issues at the table. We are ready anytime to engage,” Chamisa said further.