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Violence mars Bulawayo inquiry

Violence erupts at Motlanthe hearing after witness links Mnangagwa to Gukurahundi
Violence erupts at Motlanthe hearing after witness links Mnangagwa to Gukurahundi

Riot police, supported by two water cannons, had to be called in to quell the disturbances, resulting in the seven-member commission of inquiry, led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, adjourning the hearing at a local hotel.

Three activists linked to Mthwakazi Republic Party were arrested.

While the Harare hearings were largely peaceful, it was not the same with the maiden proceedings in the second city where the unresolved issue of Gukurahundi massacres took the centre stage yesterday.

Tempers started running high among the participants when one witness, who identified himself as Taurai Kundishaya seemed to implicate the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa in the August 1 killings, resulting in the audience accusing the Harare-based taxi driver of being a State security agent coached to give false information by laying the blame on the country’s largest opposition.

“I was at the Rainbow Towers on the day and I heard people singing saying Chamisa was their president and had won the elections. I saw about 50 people approaching the command centre carrying stones.

I knew something could happen because if MDC youth had stones, the situation tends to go bad,” Kundishaya told the gathering.

This did not go down well with the audience.

Kundishaya was booed off the stage by the miffed audience before they threatened him with assault.

This resulted in a half-an-hour stoppage of the proceedings to allow the skirmishes that had broken out to subside.

When the proceedings resumed, there was no let up to the pent-up anger and tensions among the audience.

Former legislator and MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Felix Mafa Sibanda, who was one of the witnesses, implored the commission to identify the person who deployed the army to quell the mass protests.

“The commission should be able to identify the person who deployed the army,” he said.

Some activists in attendance questioned why the commission was investigating Harare killings in Bulawayo, describing the move as nothing but a waste of time and resources.

Some claimed that the evidence was there for everyone to see where soldiers were caught on camera spraying bullets on civilians.

Motlanthe defended their visit, saying in its wisdom, the commission decided to come to Bulawayo because there was a possibility that some people in Matabeleland could have been in Harare or had relatives who were injured or killed on the day and would therefore want to hear the circumstances of what happened.

“…or you have suggestions and recommendations as to how law enforcement agents must handle such situations,” Motlanthe told the gathering.

The commission is expected to present its final report to President Emmerson Mnangagwa after three months.

Some of the members of the audience called on the commission to investigate the Gukurahundi atrocities.

“Why are you interested in finding out who killed six people yet you have never bothered to investigate the death of over 20 000 in Matabeleland?” shouted one member of the audience.

“We lost our parents during Gukurahundi and nothing was done, now you want us to testify because of six people who died in Harare,” members continued to shout.

During the hearing, one of the witnesses claimed that Mnangagwa who appointed the commission to investigate the disturbances that led to the killing of six Zimbabweans by the Zimbabwe National Army was one of those who killed his father during the Gukurahundi era where an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians from the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces were reportedly butchered by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade.

This did not go down well with one member of the audience, who immediately interjected, “Where you there when your father was killed?”

Some members of the audience quickly moved to confront the heckler, resulting in an open fight.

Alert law enforcers moved in swiftly before members of the commission were whisked out of the venue through the back door. Daily News.