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Commission of Inquiry adjourns public hearings

By Tendai Kamhungira

The Commission of Inquiry on the August 1 violence has adjourned public hearings and will be calling individuals mentioned by name in some of the witnesses’ testimonies to appear before it, the secretary, Virginia Mabhiza said yesterday.

Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, is chairing the seven-member Commission of Inquiry established by Zimbabwe into the killing of six people following military intervention in the capital. (Picture by Violet Gonda)
Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, is chairing the seven-member Commission of Inquiry established by Zimbabwe into the killing of six people following military intervention in the capital. (Picture by Violet Gonda)

Mabhiza told the Daily News that the commission will send out invitations and subpoenas to the individuals who are expected to appear for hearings on November 21, next week.

“We have not really adjourned, we are still at work. We are not going to be conducting the hearings in the same manner as we have been doing, but we shall be calling people who have been identified by name during the testimonies,” she said.

“We are hoping the people implicated by name will come and testify on November 21; we shall be sending out invitations and subpoenas.”

Some of the names that popped up during the Commission of Inquiry hearings on the violence that ensued in the aftermath of the July 30 harmonised elections include MDC’s Tendai Biti and Jim Kunaka, among others.

Mabhiza confirmed that the Kgalema Motlanthe-led seven-member commission is set to request for footage from international media to clarify certain areas.

During this week’s hearings, army officials who testified, including General Valerio Sibanda vowed on record that the military was not responsible for the killing of
six civilians.

Sibanda said the orders given on that day were very clear “you do not open fire on the rioters”.

The general told the commission that he believes that the force used by the army was appropriate, so was the weaponry.

Police officials indicated that the force was overwhelmed by 5 000 protesters and had to request for army intervention as they were short-staffed on the day in question due to election deployments.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga said the situation became so volatile that there was no time to follow protocol in the deployment of the army to assist the police force to quell the situation.

He said he gave an instruction to the military to “tread with care”, further noting that he believes minimal force was used on August 1, evidenced by the number of casualties recorded.

Meanwhile, the country’s civil society groups have said they are gobsmacked by “misleading evidence” presented by top army and police officers before the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1, 2018 shootings.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a pro-democracy quasi political group, said it is foolhardy to believe sentiments from top army officials that a video of a kneeling soldier firing into the crowds portrays him firing warning shots into the air.

“As CIZC, we maintain that truth-telling processes require sincerity and denialism perpetuates a fractured society. We have also noticed conflicting statements from the police and army top brass with a senior police officer seemingly blaming the army for the shootings.

“We note an apparent attempt to blame the opposition, business and ordinary citizens for the shootings and this will likely lead to a witch-hunt that will see continued persecution of hundreds of activists that were arrested in the aftermath of the August 1 killings on false charges,” the coalition said in a statement.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) said the deaths or injury of civilians represents a gross human rights violation in terms of the constitutional rights to life, to demonstrate and petition, to personal security, and to human dignity.

“It is concerning that government officials and leaders of the security forces have taken a defensive stance as they seek to completely deny basic facts of, involvement in and responsibility for, the unfortunate deaths and injuries.” DailyNews