Zimbabwe: 'Aug 1 Post-Election Violence Preplanned'... Army Deployment Justified - Motlanthe Commission

MDC supporters protested in Harare after the electoral commission announced that Zimbabwe’s ruling party had won a majority of seats in Parliament and the country braced itself for the first official results of the presidential election (file photo).
19 December 2018

The Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 post-election violence, which left six people dead and destroyed property estimated at millions of dollars, has concluded that the violence was preplanned and that deployment of the military was justified.

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President Mnangagwa yesterday made public the report of the Motlanthe Commission as promised last week at the Zanu-PF Annual National People's Conference in Esigodini, Matabeleland South Province.

The commission was chaired by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.

It noted that utterances by leaders of some political parties could have incited people to demonstrate on the day in question.

It also concluded that there were individuals with firearms besides the police and the military on August 1 as evidenced by spent cartridges and bullet heads found on the second floor of Gorlon House in the Harare central business district (CBD).

Announcing the inquiry findings and recommendations at his Munhumutapa Offices, President Mnangagwa said: "On the basis of the evidence presented to the Commission, the protests were preplanned and well-orchestrated as shown. For example, by the fact that the groups arrived with containers of assortments of objects such as stones, bricks, sticks etc which they used in their demonstrations.

"The protests were not limited to Harare only, but also occurred in some other areas such as Gweru where properties were also destroyed. The Commission found that the rioters were forcing ordinary people who were conducting their day-to-day business to join the riots. This move did not spare the physically incapacitated members of the public.

"Having considered all the evidence, the Commission found on a balance of probabilities that speeches made by political leaders, mostly MDC-Alliance, before and after the elections, heightened tensions and played a part in inciting some members of the public to protest."

President Mnangagwa said in its findings, the Commission noted the influence of inciteful speeches by the opposition.

"The influence of those speeches is evidenced by demonstrators reproducing in many cases word-for-word the language used at the rallies in their songs and speeches during the demonstrations. During the pre-election rallies, the MDC-Alliance had taken a position that if their presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa did not win the election they would protest, a threat that they implemented," said President Mnangagwa while summarising the report.

The report found that the demonstrators were using a tactic of appearing here, dispersing and then regrouping at different locations thereby making it difficult for the police to disperse them.

On the deployment of the military, the report said: "According to the evidence produced before the Commission, there is no doubt that the demonstrators became riotous and caused substantial damage, with several cars being set ablaze and there was a serious threat to public safety.

"Moreover, there is evidence of damage to fuel pumps at Zuva Service Station at number 100 Chinhoyi Street when about sixty protestors attacked the station. This evidence indicates that there was a risk of the service station being set alight. Given the nature of these actions, it was clear that had the riots not been checked, the situation could have escalated resulting in disastrous consequences. It was therefore not surprising that the Commissioner General of the Police requested the Minister of Home Affairs to initiate the steps required by the Constitution and the applicable law for the deployment of the army to assist the police in the containment of the riots and the restoration of law and order."

It added: "The Commission found out that on the basis of all prevailing circumstances, and in the light of all the evidence, including the rapid escalation of the situation in a very short space of time, the decision to deploy the military to assist the police in the containment of the riots was justified."

The Commission, however, noted that the use of live ammunition directed at people, especially when they were fleeing, was unjustified and disproportionate.

The Commission recommended compensation to the victims of the violence and their dependants.

It recommended registration of political parties to ensure accountability of their leaders.

"There is need for registration of political parties so as to ensure accountability of party leaders. The enforcement of the ZEC Code of Conduct for political parties has been hampered due to the absence of institutional obligations on the part of political parties.

"Political parties should be encouraged at all times to preach unity and peace for the benefit of all Zimbabweans in order for the people to be able to live together as citizens of one nation despite their political differences," said the Commission in the report read by the President.

The Commission said the use of live ammunition as warning shots should be discouraged and only be used in limited circumstances of danger to public safety.

President Mnangagwa appointed the Commission in August this year to probe the violence and in the spirit of transparency released its findings yesterday.

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