HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday named a commission including a South African ex-president and a British human rights lawyer to investigate the death of six people in an army crackdown on post-election protests early this month.
In keeping with his earlier promise to get to the bottom of the much criticised army action after he was declared the first elected head of state since Robert Mugabe’s removal from power in November, Mnangagwa said the panel would be expected to make public its findings within three months.
Mnangagwa told reporters that one of the terms of reference of the panel included establishing whether the degree of force used by the army was appropriate.
“The terms of reference are as follows, to identify the actors and their leaders, their motive and strategies employed in the protests, to investigate the circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting the maintenance of law and order,” said the president.
Optimism about Zimbabwe turning a new page in the aftermath of the first election since Mugabe was removed in a de facto coup last year quickly evaporated when opposition supporters took to the streets on Aug. 1 to protest against what they described as rigging by the election board.
Riot police tried to disperse protesters in the capital Harare but military armoured vehicles unexpectedly rolled onto the streets. Soldiers fired live rounds and beat opposition supporters. Six people were killed.
The panel, which will have seven members including four foreigners, will be chaired by Kgalema Motlante, who served as South Africa’s president for eight months in 2008-2009 after the resignation of Thabo Mbeki. It includes Rodney Dixon, a London-based human rights barrister.
Human rights groups have reported more than 150 incidents of alleged abuses by security forces against opposition supporters, including illegal detention, assault, looting and rape. Some figures in the opposition MDC have fled their homes and their whereabouts are unknown.
Mnangagwa’s government has denied carrying out abuse.
The commission is made up of foreign and local members who are: former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, UK based Queen’s Counsel Rodney Dixon, former Commonwealth Secretary General and Nigerian national Chief Emeka Anyaouku, former Tanzania Defence Forces Chief General Davis Mwamunyange, UZ Dean of Political Science Professor Charity Manyeruke, UZ Dean of Law and NCA leader Professor Lovemore Madhuku, President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe Mrs Vimbai Nyemba.
Announcing the commission at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare this afternoon, Cde Mnangagwa said the appointment is in fulfillment of what he has undertaken to do to address the matter in a transparent manner and in the public interest.
The President said the duty of the commission is to “to identify the actors and their leaders, their motive and strategies employed in the protests…inquire into the intervention by the Zimbabwe Republic Police……investigate the circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order [and] consider whether the degree of force used was appropriate to the ensuing threat to public safety, law and order.”
“[The commission will also]..ascertain the extent of damage/injury caused…investigate any other matter which the Commission of Inquiry may deem appropriate and relevant to the inquiry, make suitable recommendations and to report to the President in writing, the result of the inquiry within a period of three months from the date of swearing in,” added Cde Mnangagwa.
The President explained that the inclusion of foreigners was necessitated by the need for transparency, adding that the foreign members will be residing in Harare and they will be sworn in next week once he is back from China.