By Maxwell Sibanda
President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa should take full responsibility for the fatal shooting of six civilians by the army, which occurred in Harare on August 1, during protests by alleged MDC Alliance supporters demanding the immediate release of presidential results.
While the army fired live ammunition on unarmed, fleeing civilians — resulting in the death of at least six people — Mnangagwa instead blamed the opposition MDC Alliance for causing the bloodbath.
Speaking during Defence Forces Day commemorations at the National Sports Stadium, Mnangagwa said: “I am, however, deeply concerned with the incidents of violence that rocked the streets of Harare at the instigation of some members of the MDC Alliance leadership, which subsequently resulted in the regrettable loss of lives, injury to persons and damage to property.
“On behalf of government, and, indeed, on my own behalf, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the bereaved families and relatives of the victims of the politically-motivated violence. We strongly condemn these barbaric acts of violence. Let me once again state that violence and intolerance have no place in the new Zimbabwe, in our Second Republic,” he said.
Political and social analysts, however, said as the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Mnangagwa should have apologised and taken responsibility of the killings instead of blaming MDC Alliance whose members were not armed.
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said to blame the MDC Alliance is to be insensitive to the victims and their relatives.
“As the commander-in-chief of the ZDF, Mnangagwa must take responsibility and assure the nation that the soldiers who committed abuses will be brought to justice. Why is Mnangagwa avoiding talking about the role of soldiers on August 1?
“Mnangagwa is pre-empting the proposed Commission of Enquiry by already placing blame of the MDC Alliance even before any investigations, and ignoring the glaring fact that armed soldiers were deployed and used excessive force, including live ammunition, on unarmed protesters,” said Mavhinga.
Crisis Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo said the more things change the more they remain the same.
“It exposes the government of Zimbabwe’s facade that we are breaking with the past. What the government did, through the extra-judicial killings was callous and inhuman, for a whole head of state and commander of defence forces to seek to shift blame elsewhere is deplorable. “The Zimbabwean government is fully responsible and should be held accountable. These Micky-mouse stories do not have a place in a civilised society!”
Moyo added that the whole process of setting a commission of inquiry is a facade aimed at buying time and shifting national attention elsewhere.
“What happened is fully captured on videos and national media; if he is sincere he should hold the army accountable and take steps towards ensuring that this does not happen again in our polity!”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mnangagwa has a serious conundrum, which has been the main ruination of our politics that leaders don’t take responsibility for their acts of commission or omission.
“I am not stupefied that he as Commander-in-Chief of the army has the plucks to blame the MDC Alliance of killing six people that included its own supporters and passers-by. His utterances are not only regrettable, but reprehensible. The six who were killed are real human beings, real Zimbabweans, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunties of real people, real Zimbabweans!
“Doing tomfoolery and blame games over killing of unarmed civilians is not smart politics. It’s an asinine version of politics. Good leaders take responsibility, good leaders act with compassion, good leaders act with empathy.
“Not taking responsibility for killings done by men under your command is not only an act of indifference, but betrays poor leadership knacks. It’s not surprising though as him and his mentor Robert Mugabe never apologised for the genocide in Matabeleland — Gukurahundi. It’s sad! It’s regrettable,” said Saungweme.
He added that the contradictions between him saying he will set up a commission of inquiry to find out what happened and him pronouncing that MDC Alliance is guilty in the same speech, on the same day shows that Zimbabwe has a huge leadership problem.
“Such contradictions do not inspire anyone. Such utterances present him as leader whom the killing of six unarmed civilians does not mean much to him. His is just doing tomfoolery with the unfortunate death of six Zimbabwean citizens at the hands of armed men under his command. It’s crass. It’s regrettable!”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said such a position as taken by Mnangagwa is convenient and expedient, but it raises questions whether the attacks were ordered or not.
“Under normal circumstances, there should be a word of apology regarding army excesses in civilian crowd control. If the statements by Mnangagwa are meant as damage control, the truth is that they act in the opposite sense.”
Gwede added that there would be no need to set up a Commission if the president is convinced about who to blame because “this entity will only be used as a witch hunt enterprise against the opposition. Its work has been preempted by the appointing authority.”
Media and political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the president-elect has essentially preempted his position.
“And he cannot be an arbiter on this matter. The issue is not whether the MDC supporters were protesting or not but that civilians were shot in the back by the army.
“How does Mnangagwa explain that without apologising? Is he setting a precedent in which protesters are shot by the army and he blames the victims?”
Mukundu added that the new dispensation may not be that new at all but the darker side of the old.
Social analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said: “You know, I now know why Mugabe condemned Mnangagwa to permanent deputy head status. This man cannot accept responsibility for anything.
“A brilliant opportunity to preserve his tattered post-election reputation has gone down the drain. Soldiers shot civilians and he still passes the buck. He does not deserve to be president. Gukurahundi — it’s Mugabe. Thirty-eight years of bad governance — it’s Mugabe. Sanctions — it’s opposition. Shootings — it’s opposition!” DailyNews