Zimbabwe: Poll Violence - Group Blasts Army, Police for Ducking Blame Over Civilian Killings

Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda confers a new rank to Major General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe who was promoted from the rank of Brigadier General.
14 November 2018

Pro-Democracy NGO, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has condemned the army and police's bare denials they ever played a part in the killing of six civilians during the August 1 post electoral violence in Harare's CBD.

Top military and police commanders on Monday appeared before the Kgalema Motlanthe chaired Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances with both security forces claiming their hands were clean.

The commanders are General Philip Valerio Sibanda (Defence Forces), Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe (Presidential Guard) and Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga.

They claimed the shootings may have been the works of some business operators who were trying to protect their wealth from protesters and the MDC militant youth group, better known as the Vanguard.

The denials have elicited wide condemnation from locals who feel the country's security forces were failing to take responsibility even in apparent cases of abuse of authority.

"For the army top officials to admit that they deployed soldiers but later on claim that opposition activists or business people in Harare's Central Business District were responsible for the shooting of seven civilians is very much regrettable and confirms that Zimbabwe remains stuck in the dark past.

"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," said the group in a statement.

CiZC was referring to a widely circulated still image of a junior soldier seen excitedly spraying bullets at targets within the CBD.

AFP PHOTO / Zinyange AUNTONY

The group said truth telling processes required 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," said CiZC.

"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 01 August killings on false charges.

"The stance by the army and police confirms why Zimbabwe has a lot of unresolved cases involving the murder of civilians dating back to the Gukurahundi massacres which resulted in the deaths of more than 20 000 civilians at the hands of the Fifth Brigade."

The NGO, which combines several pro-democracy groups operating in the country, urged security forces to be loyal to the constitution and their oath of service with emphasis on the upholding of ethics.

"Based on the video evidence, any professional body of integrity is supposed to take a stand and accept responsibility for the commission of such heinous deeds rather than opting for the easy option of scapegoating," said CiZC.

The Zimbabwean group recently sent representatives to engage SADC on the continued meddling in national politics by the military which it says was a constant security threat to the country.

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