HARARE – A report by the state media linking an American diplomat’s guns to the shooting deaths of over a dozen Zimbabweans during anti-government protests “has no basis in fact,” the United States embassy in Harare said.
The Herald reported last Saturday that John Kent, a US embassy attache who oversaw the construction of the new embassy campus in Bluffhill had “smuggled two rifles and two shotguns” into the country in 2016 without declaring them to authorities.
“Fears abound that the weapons could have been used for nefarious purposes, including civil disturbances that occurred in 2018 and this year, although The Herald could not ascertain this at the time of going to print,” the newspaper claimed.
The implication was that the guns may have been used in the street shooting of 41 people during post-election protests on August 1 last year, six of them fatally, and the deaths of at least 18 people in a January crackdown by the military that followed protests over sharp fuel price increases.
“We reject the false claim by government-controlled media that firearms were imported for illegal purposes. This claim has no basis in fact. Any firearms imported by embassy officials are for legal purposes only,” the embassy said in an e-mailed response to questions by ZimLive.
A commission of inquiry set up to investigate the August 1 killings concluded that it was the army that was responsible for the deaths, and recommended prosecutions.
Zimbabwe government officials and military leaders have however claimed that the killings were orchestrated by opposition dissidents who stole army uniforms, although no evidence of this has been produced.