Commissio Inquiry: Chamisa in climbdown

MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa

HARARE – MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is now amenable to appearing before a Commission of Inquiry investigating the post-election violence that killed at least six people in central Harare on August 1, the Daily News can report.

But before he could face the seven-member Commission, the MDC leader wants the panel to clarify a number of issues to enable him to make an informed decision.
On November 14, the Commission had written to Chamisa inviting him to appear before it at its next sitting tomorrow.

Chamisa had previously gone on record, refusing to appear before the commission, saying President Emmerson Mnangagwa could not appoint a Commission to inquire into his own conduct as he was responsible for the deployment of the defence forces — according to the Constitution.

But in a letter to Commission chair, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, dated November 16, 2018, Chamisa makes a volte-face, saying notwithstanding his misgivings he “would like to take your invitation seriously and give it the due weight it deserves”.

“I note, in particular, that the basis of the invitation appears to emanate from testimony and allegation made by a witness to the effect that I incited violence. I consider the allegation to be malicious. Since my response to this contrived allegation is required, I consider it ‘fair and just’ that I should be afforded all the relevant information relating to the allegations so as to enable me to prepare adequately,” he wrote.

“I kindly therefore ask the Commission to favour me with the full transcript of the relevant part of the testimony; to better understand the nature, circumstances, scope and credibility of the allegations made against me. This would enable me to form an informed opinion regarding the invitation.

“Further, and in the interest of due process and my natural and constitutional rights, would I stand assured that an opportunity to cross-examine the witness who ‘mentioned (my name) as among those who played a part in inciting the violence of 1 August 2018’ will be availed, since the sole basis of my invitation is his, her or their testimony?,” said Chamisa.

Chamisa said it was pertinent for the Commission to note that during the material time, Mnangagwa was the sole authority charged with the responsibility of the security of all citizens in terms of the Constitution.

“He therefore is the key witness in this matter,” he said, adding that since the Commission was set up by his political competitor, the Commission must put in place mechanisms to guard against possible abuse of the process to persecute and maliciously nail him and the party he leads.

“Honourable chairman, in my view, the real issue is about the killing of innocent, unarmed and fleeing civilians; most of them shot in the back and whether or not this was justified?

“Honourable chairman, there is in this country an unfortunate and terrible history of malicious persecution of the alternative voices and selective application of the law on the basis of one’s political affiliation.

“This is a major cause of the erosion of public confidence in institutions of law enforcement, inquiry and justice. In the interests of fairness and equal application of the law, I would be most grateful if you could confirm that all persons who have been cited by witnesses, including, Mr Mnangagwa, have been or will also be called to testify before the Commission. I ask because the basis of my invitation is merely that my name was mentioned by an untested witness.

“I understand that the Commission considered it ‘fair and just’ to invite me and likewise, I hope the Commission appreciates why my requests are reasonable, fair and just,” he wrote.

Chamisa’s climb-down comes days after Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, had told the Daily News that the MDC leader risked suffering serious consequences if he did not appear before the Commission, as it had powers similar to those of the country’s courts.

According to Section 10 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the probe team has the same power as a magistrates’ court to summon witnesses and examine them under oath, and to require witnesses to produce documents in evidence.

Witnesses who fail or refuse to attend after being summoned, or who give false evidence on oath, may be prosecuted.

Despite widely published photographs and video footage showing the Zimbabwean army soldiers firing on people in Harare’s streets, senior military commanders last week flatly denied before the Commission that their men were responsible for the shooting of six people in Harare.

Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, commander of the elite presidential guard, told the public hearing “if any gunshot wounds were sustained by the victims, it was not from my men. All those were shot before we deployed and this is true because we never came across a dead body”.

Sanyatwe said troops had fired warning shots as they were trained to do.

The commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, told the inquiry that a kneeling soldier captured on a video that has gone viral on social media discharging his firearm, was firing warning shots.

The senior officers’ testimonies fly in the face of witness accounts and do not match the recollection of many witnesses to the violence, which followed scattered confrontations between police and protesters from the MDC angered by alleged electoral fraud.

This escalated resentment towards the Commission amid suspicion it’s condoning the institutionalised cover-up of the shootings by the army. Source: Daily News