Zimbabwe: Victims Need Closure

Supporters of the opposition Movement For Democratic Change party protest (file photo).
editorial

Army commander Philip Valerio Sibanda's assertion that a third force might have been behind the killing of six protesters in Harare last year shows that the military is not willing to take responsibility for its excesses.

After the brutal killings, captured on camera by journalists from around the world who had converged in Zimbabwe for the July 30 elections, President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up a commission of inquiry to probe the incident.

Former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe led the commission that concluded that those soldiers' use of live ammunition to quell the protests was "clearly unjustified and disproportionate".

Mnangagwa repeatedly promised to respect the findings of the commission and ensure that its recommendations are implemented.

However, Sibanda last week told the Zimpapers television channel that: "We continue with investigations to establish whether any of our members shot civilians on August 1, 2019.

"Like I said during the commission, there was a third hand at play, but if any of our soldiers shot civilians they will be certainly taken to book."

The statements, though, did not come as a surprise because a year after those killings no soldier has been charged.

Besides rhetoric, there is no evidence that there are any meaningful investigations underway to bring the soldiers that shot civilians on their backs as they fled are brought to book.

The international community has on several occasions raised concern about delays in the implementation of recommendations by the Motlanthe Commission and the United States a fortnight ago imposed sanctions on a former general who commanded the soldiers behind the killings.

Anselem Sanyatwe, who is now Zimbabwe's ambassador designate to Tanzania, blamed the opposition for the killings when he appeared before the Motlanthe Commission.

It was clear from the panel's findings that they did not find Sibanda and Sanyatwe's theory of a third force plausible.

Sibanda has to lead by example and help restore confidence in the military, whose image was further dented by the killing of civilians in another round of protests early this year.

Victims of the August 1 killings and their families need closure.

It is high time the army commanders took responsibility and played their part in the healing process.

Attempts to shift the blame, like Sibanda tried to do, are very unhelpful.

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