An unmoved President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday insisted opposition leader Nelson Chamisa must appear before the commission of inquiry investigating the deadly August 1 shootings, which left at least six civilians dead in Harare.
Mnangagwa’s warning came as Chamisa had suggested on Thursday that he would not appear before the inquiry — unless both Mnangagwa and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, were also compelled to testify before it on the killings.
The youthful opposition leader has been asked to appear before the commission next week, following the testimonies of army and police chiefs who suggested this week that a militant wing in the MDC — the Vanguard — was responsible for the August 1 shootings.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told the Daily News yesterday that Chamisa risked suffering serious consequences if he did not appear before the commission, as it had powers similar to those of the country’s courts.
“He should know that the commission has the powers of the courts. Chamisa should go and answer to what the commission is asking.
“What is the relationship between him and the president? He has to appear on the strength of the subpoena … and should behave like a lawyer,” Charamba thundered.
Addressing a press conference in Harare on Thursday, Chamisa said the spirit of fairness dictated that the inquiry should also call Mnangagwa and Chiwenga to appear before it to answer 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.
Things at the probe got heated earlier this week after security chiefs absolved the military of the killings in their testimonies.
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.
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 opposition leader a top post in Parliament.
This led Chamisa to accuse Matanga of being used by authorities to engineer his arrest — further querying why the police chief would dabble into politics when his job was to enforce the law.
But Charamba denied yesterday that Mnangagwa was trying to “blackmail” Chamisa into accepting the Zanu PF leader’s legitimacy — adding that Matanga’s comments were not related to the commission of inquiry.
“Don’t confuse two issues that are not related. There is a commission of inquiry that is looking at what happened on August 1, and we also have the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) whose duty is to enforce the law.
“The commissioner (Matanga) might have had his own reading, but as I have said before, the president did not make an offer to Chamisa, but the architecture of government.
“I don’t think the police would have political considerations before they arrest a person. That is not what is happening now,” Charamba said.
In his Thursday media briefing, Chamisa also said there was an attempt to push him into an “unholy alliance” with Mnangagwa, using crooked means.
“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.
“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 then.
Mnangagwa appointed the current killings 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.
The killings also cast a huge pall over Zimbabwe’s hopes of recovering from years of ousted former president Robert Mugabe’s ruinous rule.
The shootings occurred after millions of Zimbabweans had cast their votes in the polls to choose both a new Parliament and president — following the dramatic fall from power of Mugabe last November.
The elections were the first since 1980 to be held in the country without Mugabe’s participation, whose 37-year, iron-fisted rule was stunningly ended by a military intervention which triggered events that ended with his resignation.
The elections also marked the first time that the main opposition MDC was not represented by its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his brave battle against colon cancer on Valentine’s Day this year.
Political analysts have also said the August 1 violence and the resultant deaths had done a lot of harm to Mnangagwa’s quests to mend years of frosty relations with Western governments.