Gen Sibanda blames ‘evil intentions’ by MDC for Harare killings

Zimbabwe National Army commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda on Monday in Harare, where he asked citizens to remain alert for "malcontents and saboteurs"

HARARE – Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda spoke publicly for the first time since soldiers killed civilians on Harare’s streets on August 1 – and he accepted no responsibility for the massacre.

General Sibanda, instead, pointed the finger of blame at the opposition MDC Alliance, whose supporters had marched to the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to demand a prompt release of Presidential Election results.

Following an all-too-familiar script Zimbabweans have heard from President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, a retired general, General Sibanda suggested that the MDC protesters, and not the military, should take the blame for the killings.

“Zimbabwe remains secure despite the recent politically motivated violence that erupted a day after the harmonised elections on July 30, 2018,” Sibanda told state media in an interview to coincide with Zimbabwe Defence Forces Day on Tuesday.

“That notwithstanding, the country continued to enjoy peace, security and stability during the harmonised elections. Had it not been for evil intentions of some opposition political players who went on to incite violent protests, unnecessary loss of lives of six people who were caught up in the unfortunate shooting incidents could have been avoided.”

The death toll remains a point of dispute, with some human rights groups estimating as many as 10 were killed, while police have only confirmed six deaths. Dozens others were treated for gun shot wounds and bayonet stab wounds.

A report by Bloomberg News recently suggested General Sibanda had been furious after the shootings, demanding – during a meeting with Mnangagwa – to know who had deployed the soldiers who were seen shooting indiscriminately at a group of protesters.