Army general haunts Mnangagwa

Anselem Sanyatwe
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HARARE – The promotion of Anselm Sanyatwe – the man who commanded soldiers that shot six civilians in Harare’s central business district on August 1, 2018 — to the rank of Major General has exposed government’s lack of accountability and unwillingness to reform, political analysts have said.

Sanyatwe who was the commander of the Presidential Guard was promoted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa just a few days before a report by a Commission of Inquiry into the politically-motivated violence was made public.

When he appeared before the Commission last month, Sanyatwe said his soldiers did not fire the bullets that resulted in the death of the innocent civilians and injury of 35 people — a claim that was buttressed by his commander, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda.

But according to the Kgalema Motlanthe report, the six civilians who were killed on August 1 died at the hands of the police and soldiers who were dispatched into the streets of Harare to quell demonstrations that had degenerated into chaos.

It is, however, the manner in which the alleged killers would be treated that has raised a storm among observers and opposition figures as the Commission recommends internal disciplinary action.

In its recommendations the Commission says the police, who were also implicated in the shootings should complete the investigations into the disturbances that left a huge scar on the country’s body politic, while urging the army to punish officers who pulled the trigger.

“Those particular members of the military and the police found to have been in breach of their professional duties and discipline on the 1st of August 2018 should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction, which should include hearing from the victims and their families for impact assessment and to provide the necessary compensation,” reads the report in part.

Political analysts canvassed by the Daily News on Sunday said the country’s military commanders should have been retired in other countries for lying under oath but not in Zimbabwe.

Writing in his Saturday blog, legal expert Alex Magaisa said it is unlikely that the generals will be moved by the report.

“The Commission’s verdict dismisses as false and dishonest, the weak defences and explanations that were given by senior military commanders during the hearings.

“They had protested that the deaths were not from the actions of their troops whose professionalism they defended.

“The effect of the Commission’s damning verdict is that these testimonies were false. This is a serious indictment on the integrity of military commanders who had vehemently vouched for the professionalism of their forces.

“However, resignation on account of embarrassment is not something that exists in the vocabulary of Zimbabwe’s establishment. They will just pretend that the Commission they set up did not say anything,” said Magaisa.

Political analysts Maxwell Saungweme said if Zimbabwe had a normal and ethical society, the army commanders would resign and get prosecuted.

“But it’s expecting too much for that to happen under a coup leader,” he said.

Mnangagwa came to power through a soft coup last November after the army stepped in to remove former president Robert Mugabe from power.

He has been spiritedly trying to sell to the world an image of a country that is democratic but analysts believe he now has his work cut out.

Crisis Coalition regional director Piers Pigou said Sanyatwe’s promotion is shocking and generates negative perceptions and sentiments that require attention.

Scholar Macdonald Lewanika said Mnangagwa must come clean on the military.

“It is curious that directly involved parties would be promoted prior to the finalisation of a matter that they are party to. But that is the nature of this state and its regime, accountabilities virtually none existent, and promotions appear based on personal loyalties to those who hold the levers of power more than any discernible successes and competences that the public can identify and identify with,” said Lewanika.

Former Zanu PF politburo member-turned government critic Jonathan Moyo said the Commission slept on duty by failing to call a spade by its name.

“The Commission’s failure to name the culpable soldiers and police officers is a dereliction of duty against its mandate. Even worse is its recommendation that the police should investigate the August 1 crimes and the army should identify and sanction its culpable soldiers,” said Moyo.

The country’s military command was in full force at the just ended Zanu PF annual conference something that observers say shows that there is a conflation between the State and ruling party. – Daily News