21 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Motlanthe Inquiry Findings - There Is No Justice

opinion

READING the report of the Motlanthe commission of inquiry into the August 1 post-election violence, I had the distinct impression that the document was badly structured, devoid of a flowing narrative, rendering it, in effect, a hodge-podge of political mumbo-jumbo cobbled up by a glorified panel which has tried very hard to be everything to everyone.

To us, the three most important findings of the inquiry are: the soldiers killed unarmed civilians, the state must compensate the victims or their families, and the culprits must be brought to justice. The other things are also important, but secondary.

What baffles me is that President Emmerson Mnangagwa -- who has been identified by the commission of inquiry as having deployed the murderous soldiers -- has not found it necessary to immediately organise a live televised address to the nation, apologising to the victims and taking leadership in kick-starting a genuine process of atonement. For a political leader who wants to be perceived as a reformist and taken seriously, it defies logic how he can expect Zimbabweans and the international community to quickly forget this bloody episode and get on with life. The "let bygones be bygones" mantra of his is not a magic bullet. Justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done, which is why Mnangagwa must now show sincerity by swiftly reaching out to the victims and their families. He must also do that on all other atrocities of the past.

It was difficult for me to properly digest the commission of inquiry report. The document is disjointed, unconvincing and, quite frankly, technically unsound, despite the fact that there were seasoned and distinguished lawyers on that probe team.

The first glaring weakness of the inquiry can be found in the terms of reference, which lacked objectivity and appeared tailor-made to deliver a pre-determined outcome. Terms of reference are meant to define the purpose, structure and scope of a probe team of this nature. When the terms of reference are fatally defective, it is virtually impossible to expect a commission of inquiry to be independent, objective, unbiased and impartial.

Another glaring weakness is that the chief protagonists in this sordid saga, Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, did not testify. Why? We have not seen a convincing attempt by the commission to thoroughly scrutinise all the material facts. For instance, what are the names of the soldiers who were deployed on August 1 and who commanded them on the ground? Several troops were identified via social media and their names are in the public record.

It beggars belief that the commission of inquiry has not found it useful to establish the identities of those marauding soldiers. This level of sloppiness feeds into Zimbabwe's endless cycle of violence and impunity. The commission's sloppiness does not end there. In the report, the probe team essentially leaves it at the discretion of the same culpable government to single-handedly decide the quantum of compensation to the victims and their families, and what happens next. Where is the justice?

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