HARARE — Zimbabwe’s police chief Godwin Matanga says President Emmerson Mnangagwa deployed the country’s national army to maintain law and order in Harare on August 1st this year during protests staged by suspected opposition supporters, demanding the release of presidential election results of the July 30 poll.
Police Commissioner Matanga said this when he testified before the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the killing of about six people by the army, which opened fire on civilians, mostly minding their own business in the city’s central business district.
But the Zimbabwe National Army denies that it killed the people despite video evidence showing some soldiers firing at civilians.
He said Mnangagwa deployed the army following a request by the police that had inadequate manpower as some of them were in various parts of the country monitoring the election process.
Mutanga noted that members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the police did not map out strategies on quelling the protests.
He said soldiers were supposed to be given some guidelines by the police on handling protesters as they are not normally deployed for such purposes.
Matanga said soldiers used their AK47 rifles accordingly as hundreds of people would have died if the guns were not properly used.
Commissioner Ellen Sithole told Matanga and other members of the Zimbabwe Defence Force testifying before the commission that there was no need for the army to use maximum force to stop the protesters.
Reacting to this suggestion, General Ancelom Nhamo Sanyatwe of the National Reaction Group, claimed that members of the national army did not kill anyone as soldiers fired warning shots into the air to scare protesters.
He was further questioned on a video showing a soldier seemingly firing shots into the crowd instead of pointing the gun into the sky.
General Sanyatwe, who is attached to the Presidential Guard, said the soldier’s shooting poster indicated that he was not firing at innocent civilians.
He said the person who shot the video together with journalists who were closely following the soldiers would not have been near the scene if the army was firing at civilians.
General Sanyatwe dismissed as “fake news” testimonies of some people who told the commission that they witnessed soldiers firing live shots at protesters.
He claimed that the people who were shot may have been killed by common people as most businesspersons in Harare own guns.
General Sanyatwe further claimed that they received intelligence reports before the protests that members of the Movement for Democratic Change led by the Vanguard, which he alleged had military training, wanted to remove the government by force soon after the July 30 elections.
His claims appeared to be backed by Police Commissioner Matanga, who told the commission that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is linked to the protests as he allegedly told party members to reject the outcome of the presidential election.
Matanga said the MDC leader was supposed to have been arrested long back but this was delayed in order to avoid “fueling the fire” as people were still agitated following the elections.
But MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume dismissed suggestions that Chamisa was to blame for the protests and subsequent killing of innocent civilians in Harare on August 1st.
The hearings continue Tuesday with no indications that Chamisa and Mnangagwa will testify.
Lilian Chigwede of the National Peace and Reconciliation. – VOA