By Gift Phiri
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of “disregard of truth” and refusing to take responsibility for political killings, torture, and abductions by government security forces and the ruling Zanu PF during and after the presidential election run-off in 2008.
In an interview with the authoritative The Economist, Mnangagwa denied that previous elections were unfair, especially in 2008, when NGOs reckoned that hundreds of activists of the opposition MDC were killed after then leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat former president Robert Mugabe in a hard-fought presidential poll.
“It was fair, very fair. Where is the evidence for violence? Not a single case was taken to the police,” Mnangagwa told the English-language weekly magazine-format newspaper.
Politicians, pundits, and people of all political stripes were quick to condemn Mnangagwa’s comments on social media as a “flagrant disregard of truth and decency” that many said were undermining accountability for the atrocities.
Human Rights Watch documented cases of violence during the 2008 elections, showing that the Zanu PF-led government was responsible, at the highest levels, for widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5 000 more, and the displacement of about 36 000 people.
Analysts eviscerated Mnangagwa, accusing him of attempting to whitewash the “killings” in an extraordinary diatribe against a sitting president.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said: “Profoundly shocking and unpresidential.”
Analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mnangagwa is just being a politician.
“Did you expect him to say ‘yes’? Him and (now Vice President Constantino) Chiwenga engineered a sadistic, pugnacious and vehement operation to unconstitutionally turn the Tsvangirai victory into a Mugabe result?
“He also knows very well that many cases were reported to police and also it was a waste of time to report cases to same police that were also allegedly implicated in the violence. He was just speaking as a politician. Nothing much to get from this. This was nothing but mere old and tired political banter.”
Saungweme said his account confirms that nothing has changed since 2008.
“The military action on November 15, 2017 ushered in the same old story, though the cranium has changed from that of a 94-year-old to that of a 75-year-old. The footing, the edifice, the logic, and the modus operandi remained the same. November 15, 2017 will go down in history as a day when Zimbabweans celebrated a change that never was. A tough lesson that not all change is useful.”
Post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg and researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya told the Daily News Mnangagwa’s statement shows he is not prepared to administer free and fair elections.
“The GNU came about because both AU and Sadc refused to recognise the outcome of the violent June 2008 elections.
“Most significantly, president Mnangagwa was in charge of the military onslaught against the civilian population in that disputed elections.
“Evidence of extra-judicial killings in Zaka, Mazowe, Gokwe and many other places where heinous crimes were committed by the security forces can only be disputed by those who were involved in the abuse.
“Mnangagwa is simply denying taking responsibility because its now clear that the group that was responsible for those abuses is now in charge of the State and mostly likely they will use both covert and overt violence to retain power with the security forces especially the military being at the forefront of this democratic subversion and electoral manipulation.
“Therefore if the 2008 run-off election was free and fair as ED says, then may be he wanted a second Gukurahundi or Holocaust,” he said.
Academic and pro-Mnangagwa newspaper columnist Reason Wafawarova said: “ I have also asked for the list of names of the 200-plus people said to have been killed. Surely they had names and family.”
UK-based academic George Shire, a fierce backer of Mnangagwa, said politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe has been generated by people linked to all our political parties.
“I condemn it unreservedly. I have and continue to be critical of the way in which discussion on this subject is always premised on the assumption that all if not most of this violence is institutionally driven by Zanu PF,” he said.
“The other point I make is that opinion is divided on whether the 2008 elections themselves were free and fair.”
He said the 2008 elections were certainly conducted in an atmosphere of violence “but that does not lead one to conclude that they were not free or not fair.”
“The MDC did come close to winning the 2008 election but bottled out of the second round of the presidential election. The GNU was a product of finding an amicable solution to the problem of legitimacy.”
Shire said his quarrel was with the The Economist article and it’s intended outcome.
“Why now?” he asked rhetorically.
“We are in an election year and all our parties are in election mode.
“The MDC leadership is, as we speak, is silent about the violence that is engulfing that party.
“One would have expected an unqualified condemnation of the events everybody witnessed at
Tsvangirai’s funeral and in Bulawayo in the last few days.
“The private media also continues not to investigate or pay attention to this and one is tempted to conclude that the selective focus or return to 2008 or to Gukurahundi is a calculated attempt to divert our attention away from the real material issues that our country faces now,” Shire told the Daily News. DailyNews