On August 1st, 2018, Zimbabwe held elections that ultimately declared the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa victorious. He defeated his chief rival Nelson Chamisa. There was a delay in the announcement of the results of the elections. Amid concerns of election fraud, many of Chamisa’s supporters took to streets especially in the capital Harare.
In response, Mnangagwa deployed the military that used violence against the protesters killing 6 protesters and bystanders and injuring dozens.
The elections were not fair as evidenced by the unfavorable environment during the election campaigns. Human Rights Watch report that they found evidence of voter intimidation. Observers from the European Union who incidentally ignored by the NYTimes said on top of voter intimidation, there was inherent media bias, and there was a lack of trust in the election commission tasked with conducting free and fair elections.
These were the conditions under which the Zimbabwean elections of 2018 took place. As if it wasn’t obvious which horse the Western establishment was betting on, days before the elections the New York Times ran an opinion piece from President Mnangagwa. In it, he was addressing the Western readers and the establishment when he expressed hopes for a new era that would receive investments and grants.
The New York Times did not try to refute his rhetoric or allude to his history as the Spy Chief during one of the most brutal periods in Zimbabwean history.
Upon assuming power, President Mnangagwa setup a government inquiry into the killings of the protesters. Lo and behold, it vindicated the military’s campaign of violence and did not blame either the soldiers or the military command for the civilian deaths. The report further said that protesters posed a threat to the soldiers and some were armed with sticks, stones, and even weapons.
There were concerns from the beginning about the impartiality of a government inquiry, which were justified when the findings were disclosed.
President Mnangagwa instituted a second inquiry chaired by ex-South African President Kgalema Mothlante. Its’ findings were disclosed last night. President Mnangagwa read out the findings on TV with gross exaggerations and shunning their recommendations and disproportionate use of force by the military.
Reading out what the President said were the findings of the report, he said:
“the decision to deploy the military to assist the police in the containment of the riots was justified”.
The report did say that the decision to deploy the military was justified but justified in the sense that it did not violate the Zimbabwean constitution.
…….the Commission has dealt with the evidence relating to the manner in which the military was deployed.
The Commander of the Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda testified before the Commission that he had been advised by the Vice President and Minister of Defence, General Chiwenga, that His Excellency, President ED Mnangagwa had authorised the deployment of the military in terms of the Constitution. It was on that basis that he gave orders for the deployment of the military to assist the Police.
Then in section 4.3 of the report, they discuss section 213(2) (b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and then section 37(1) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) .
No one cared whether the deployment of the military violated a provision of the Zimbabwean constitution. From the start, the concerns were about what the military did. The issue was whether the military command had instructed the soldiers to open fire on fleeing civilians or whether they did so on their own. In either case, someone needs to be held accountable.
The report is right to mention that some protesters had become riotous and posed threat to the public safety but that does not justify shooting people in the back.
The report like the last one is a whitewash of what happened after the election hours. For example, if you look at subsection f of section 6.3, it says the following:
Whilst the deployment was lawful, the operational framework in terms of Section 37 of POSA was not fully followed in that the deployed troops were not placed under the command of the Regulating Authority due to time constraints as acknowledged by the Commissioner General of Police.
The report clears the higher military command of any responsibility by claiming that there were time constraints, which did not allow a regulating authority to command the troops.
On the matter of disproportionate use of force by the military, the report only contains three subsections. One of the three subsections vindicates warning shots by the military while the other two do not even fill up two lines of the document. This was the most important part of the report but it hardly even mentioned.
In section 7.6 of the report, the report recommends that the accused parties (police and military) carry out internal investigations and identify the individuals responsible for the crimes. Although the report called them ‘crimes’, it fails to specify any except the vague ‘disproportionate use of force’.
The Herald Zimbabwe like a stooge of the military and the Mnangagwa government ran an editorial praising the President for not suppressing the report ‘despite pressures’. The praise is undeserved as the whole purpose of this report as the last one was to publicly vindicate Mnangagwa and the military establishment from any responsibility for using blatant force that killed 6 fleeing protesters and injured dozens.