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Commission Implicates Police, Army, MDC in Zimbabwe Post-Election Violence

President Emmerson Mnangagwa - Release of Commission of Inquiry Report
President Emmerson Mnangagwa - Release of Commission of Inquiry Report

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, on Tuesday made good on his promise to make public the findings of the three-month investigation into the post-election violence that left six people dead, and 35 injured.

According to the report, compiled by a seven-member Commission of Inquiry picked by President Mnangagwa to look into what caused the violence that broke out on August 1st, the police and army were found responsible for the deaths and injuries sustained from the clashes between citizens and members of the security forces.

“The death of these six people and injuries sustained by the 35-others, rose from the actions of the military and the police,” President Mnangagwa said, quoting the report.

Zimbabwe Political Turmoil - Army Truck
Zimbabwe Political Turmoil - Army Truck

However, the report also attributed blame on the protestors, some suspected to be members of the opposition Movement for Democratic (MDC) Alliance, who were demanding the release of the July 30th presidential results.

“At least six persons sustained injuries as a result of the actions by the protestors,” noted the report.

Though the commission found the deployment of the military to assist police in containing the violence “justified” and constitutionally “provided for in terms of Section 213 Subsection 2 of the Constitution and Section 37 Subsection 1 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Chapter 11.1.7,” given the “riotous” demonstrators, it also found the military’s use of force, which included beating demonstrators with baton sticks and rifle butts, as well as shooting into the crowds, unjustified and outside the command of the regulating authority.

“The use of live ammunition directed at people, especially when they were fleeing was clearly unjustified, and disproportionate,” the report noted. “The use of sharp shambokos, baton sticks and rifle butts to assault members of the public, indiscriminately was also disproportionate.”

MDC Role in Post-Election Violence

While the report puts much of the blame on the army and police where it related to the death and injuries, it however implicated “fake, fabricated news on social media,” and the opposition MDC led by Nelson Chamisa, for sparking the violence, that resulted in the August 1st incident and involvement of the army and the police.

“Speeches made by political leaders, mostly the MDC Alliance, before and after the elections, heightened tensions and played a part in inciting some members of the public to protest,” noted the report. “During the pre-election rallies, the MDC Alliance had taken a position that if their presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, did not win the election, they would protest. A threat that they implemented.”

Nelson Chamisa of the MDC
Nelson Chamisa of the MDC

The commission further determined that, “the protests were pre-planned and well-orchestrated as shown, for example, by the fact that the groups arrived in containers of assortment of products of objects such as stones, bricks, sticks, posters, etc., etc. which they used in their demonstrations,” the report noted.

The MDC refutes the report’s findings as far as their involvement in instigating the violence, saying the whole investigation is a white wash to cover up the real culprits of the August 1st violence.

“We are surprised that the report says we caused the violence, but they didn’t name even one person shot by the MDC, they haven’t even mentioned one member of the MDC who was even there, they are only referring to speeches that were made at rallies,” said MDC spokesperson, Jacob Mafume.

Mafume says his party is still going through the report.

Commission Recommendations

Aside from just pinning blame on suspected culprits of the violence, the Commission, which was chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, also offered recommendations to prevent future outbreaks of election and other-related violence, as well compensation for victims of the violence and their loved ones.

Commission Of Enquiry Into Shootings
Commission Of Enquiry Into Shootings

“The payment of compensation is recommended for all victims of the violence, and dependents of the deceased. Where the deceased had young children, they should be urgently assisted with school fees and their general welfare,” recommended the commission. “The government should put in place a special committee to assess and determine the quantity of damages and compensation to be awarded to victims on a case by case basis,” offered the report, and even noted names of victims.

The report also calls for further internal investigation by the police to get to the bottom of who overstepped their boundaries while responding to the violence.

“It is imperative for the police urgently to complete their investigations to enable the persecutions of those persons who are responsible for all alleged crimes committed on the 1st of August 2018,” noted the report. “Those particular members of the military and police found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline on the first of august 2018 should be identified as soon as possible, for internal investigations and appropriate actions which should include hearing from the victims.”

Jim Kunaka Testifying at Commission
Jim Kunaka Testifying at Commission

MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume, took issue with the report’s call for tossing the investigation back to the police, saying the commission tasked with the investigation, should have resolved this.

“That was the commission’s job,” said Mafume. “But it is now returning the matter back to the perpetrators, those who committed the killings, to say who ordered the shooting, and who killed people.”

The Commission also recommended the use of enhanced ICT facilities to enable election officials to quickly transfer election results to the command center, so that crucial results like the presidential results, can be announced faster than the current five-day waiting period, provided for by the constitution.

To ensure that people’s right to demonstrate is protected, the commission also recommended more awareness to educate political parties and members of the general public on how to exercise their rights within the provisions of the law.

Commenting on the commission findings, President Mnangagwa said his government will study the recommendations and set the way forward.