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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: The August 1, 2018 murders and a Commission of Inquiry whose report has been completely ignored

“The Commission’s finding on a balance of probability from all the evidence received is that the deaths of these six people and the injuries sustained by 35 others arose from the actions of the military and the police .” (Mothlante Commission Report )

Today is August 1, yes that blood-soaked day. The month of August is called Nyamavhuvhu in Shona, a reference to our own slow and laid-back version of the harmattan. August is the month of strong breezy winds that often sweep across the plains and savannah grass of this our beloved homeland during this time. Nyamavhuvhu is a nuanced reference to these breezy and gutsy winds ( mhepo inovhuvhuta ) that characterise the month of August in Zimbabwe.

But exactly four years ago to the day on 1 August 2018 following a disputed election, it was the murderous and malignant winds of State-sanctioned violence that swept across Harare when citizens took to the streets to protest the delayed announcement of the Presidential election result. Six people were callously murdered by State-security agents in broad daylight and 35 others were seriously injured. August, the month of heroes instantly became the month of villains when those who claim to have liberated the country brazenly killed the very citizens they claim to have liberated all those years ago.

The six people shot and killed by the military on that gloomy day were Challenge Tauro (20), Jealous Chikandira (21), Brian Zhuwawo (26), Ishmael Kumire (41), Gavin-Dean Charles (45) and Sylvia Maphosa (53). I particularly knew Kumire, who came from Matope village in Mawanga ward 2 of Goromonzi in Domboshava and whose daughter Mukudzei, now an orphan, was then a friend and classmate to my own daughter Lee-Anne at Santa Heights school in my beloved home area.

Amid acute national political tension and the intense international gaze following those State-sanctioned murders, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa hastily appointed a Presidential Commission of Inquiry in terms of section 2 (1) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (chapter 10: 07) through Proclamation 6 of 2018 published in Statutory Instrument 181 of 2018 to investigate the tragic incident. The Commission was chaired by His Excellency Kgalema Mothlante, the former President of South Africa. The other Commissioners were Rodney Dixon, QC, from the United Kingdom, chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth secretary-general from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Davis Mwamunyange, former chief of Tanzania’s People’s Defence Forces, Professors Charity Manyeruke and Lovemore Madhuku, both then lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe and Mrs Vimbai Nyemba, a former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

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Today, on the fourth anniversary of the August 1 2018 callous murders, I evaluate how far the regime has gone in implementing the recommendations of a Presidential Commission of Inquiry that was appointed and that executed its task amid frenzied hype, glitz and glamour and whose public hearings took place in the razzmatazz of flashing cameras and even enjoyed the rarity of live coverage on national radio and television.

It is indeed pertinent to ask just how far Mr Mnangagwa has gone in implementing the recommendations of his own Commission.

A brief evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations of the Mothlante Commission

Dear reader, find below a brief synopsis of the main elements of the individual recommendations and a brief evaluation of the implementation or lack thereof. I plead with you and hereby give an advance notice and warning, dear reader, that the implementation scorecard of the recommendations of the Mothlante Commission report is not for those of a nervous disposition:

Recommendation 1 : Compensation

The Commission recommended the payment of compensation for all the victims. Where the deceased person had young children, the Commission recommended that they be urgently assisted with school fees as well as their general welfare. The Commission recommended the setting up of a special committee to determine the quantum of compensation to be awarded to the victims.

Evaluation : Nothing has been done in fulfillment of this recommendation. In the first place, there was no special commission set up to determine the quantum of compensation nor was anyone ever compensated. In February 2020, Mr Mnangagwa reportedly told diplomats accredited to Harare that the government had compensated the victims. This was in fact not true as the situation on the ground told a different story.

While the Commission specifically urged the State to pay school fees for the orphans left by the deceased, I know for a fact this was not done. I know for a fact that in 2020, two years after her father was killed, Mukudzei Kumire’s fees had not been paid and the principal at Santa Heights private school, Mrs Mapfumo had to accord menial jobs to Mukudzei’s mother, Suspicious Kumire, to work at the school as payment of her orphaned daughter’s school fees. This year, 2022, I am reliably told the situation has not changed.

This recommendation for compensation has not been implemented in any manner or form.

Recommendation 2 : Political parties ‘ registration

The Commission noted and recommended the registration of all political parties so as to ensure accountability of the party leaders. The Commission called for political parties to preach peace and unity for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.

Evaluation : Nothing much has happened. Political parties have yet to be registered while political leaders, particularly Mr Mnangagwa, continue to speak with a forked tongue by preaching peace during the day while his supporters run amok and kill political opponents. The CCC supporters Nyasha Zhambe of Gutu and Mboneni Ncube of Kwekwe were killed by Zanu PF supporters in the past year. I do not wish to talk about Moreblessings Ali as the matter is still before the courts.

In short, this recommendation has not been implemented.

Recommendation 3 : Electoral Reforms

In order to enhance efficiency and transparency, the Commission recommended the development of ICT facilities for the expeditious transmission of results to the Command centre. The Commission also recommended that Parliament considers adopting legislation that shortens the time taken to announce Presidential results in future elections.

Evaluation : Zimbabweans continue to make the shrill cry for electoral reforms. We haven’t heard that ZEC has developed its ICT infrastructure for the expeditious transmission of results as recommended by the Commission. Neither has Parliament moved and adopted legislation to shorten the transmission of Presidential election results as recommended by the Mothlante Commission.

Zero movement on this recommendation.

Recommendation 4 : Enforcement of Law and Order

The Commission recommended the alignment of POSA with the Constitution on the deployment of the military internally. The Commission noted that the use of the military to assist the police in controlling rioters should be a last resort. The Commission also recommended that the use of live ammunition as warning shots be discouraged.

Evaluation : POSA may have been amended but it is still to be aligned to the Constitution particularly with respect to the deployment of the military internally. The behaviour of the police and the military towards the citizens remains unchanged and there is no palpable evidence this recommendation has been taken on board by the country’s security services.

Recommendation 5 : Nation – building and reconciliation

In the main, the Committee recommended the establishment of a multi-party reconciliation initiative. It also urged the NPRC to increase its efforts to fully implement its mandate (NB. This was a respectful way to say the NPRC was failing in delivering its mandate).

Evaluation : There has been zero implementation as the NPRC has maintained its laid-back approach while the multi-party reconciliation initiative is still to be established some four years later.

Recommendation 6 : Accountability

This is by far the most important recommendation. The Commission said it was imperative for the police to complete investigations to enable the prosecution of those responsible for the murders and all alleged crimes. The Commission stated that those particular members of the police and the military found to have been in breach of their professional duties on the particular day be identified “as soon as possible” so that appropriate sanction be taken.

Evaluation : No culprit within the police and the military has been investigated or identified, let alone arrested or faced any sanction. No one, absolutely no one, has been arrested or sanctioned. Zero accountability on anyone, particularly the perpetrators of this heinous crime of murder!

Conclusion : Much ado about nothing

So the implementation scorecard is zero out six. Of the six recommendations by the Mothlanthe Commission of Inquiry Report, none has been implemented four years later. It was therefore all much ado about nothing. The expensive international Commission whose expenses included international flight tickets for the commissioners, the plush hotel accommodation, the hefty allowances for the Commissioners and all the hype about the work of the Commission was all much ado about nothing.

All the media hype and televised live coverage was all a grand PR exercise to appease an international community searching for answers and a restive local populace that expected government to do something about the callous murders it had committed on its own soil and to its own citizens. It was callous State terrorism to which there is no closure four years later.

No one has been held to account. Four years later, no one has been summoned, investigated, arrested or made to answer for the grisly murders. Mr Mnangagwa has simply ignored all the recommendations of his own Commission.

At Santa Heights primary school in Domboshava, Mukudzei’s mother Suspicious, widowed through State terrorism, continues to hustle and to do menial work at the school to ensure her child, now in Grade Four, goes to school.

Young Mukudzei’s parlous life is testimony to the fact that this is in no way a new Dispensation but a more malignant and more murderous version of Mugabe’s blood-soaked tenure.

In 2017, Zimbabwe simply jumped from the frying pan into the fire and even celebrated for it. Kutonga kwaro .

Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava. He is a change champion and the interim deputy secretary for Presidential Affairs in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with Tamborinyoka on his facebook page or via his twitter handle @ luke_tambo.