Commander-in-Chief Mnangagwa deployed the troops

Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as President in Harare. (Ben Curtis, AP)

HARARE – A flurry of behind-the-scenes consultations that took place before the August 1 army killings has lifted the lid on who actually authorised the military deployments that quelled demonstrations which rocked the capital city on that fateful day.

Correspondence attached to the recently published Commission of Inquiry final report on the August 1 killing of six people in Harare show that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was aware of and authorised the deployment.

The report compiled by the Kgalema Motlanthe-led inquiry points at the army and the police as having fired the fatal shots that claimed the lives of six Zimbabweans.

Ironically, while the Commission of Inquiry reasoned that the riots were pre-determined, some of the letters annexed to the report show that government started preparations for deployment of police and the army on July 29, a day before Election Day.

The paperwork shows that on August 1, police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga wrote to then minister of Home Affairs Obert Mpofu, making reference to a letter dated July 29 seeking military intervention in the wake of public disquiet.

Matanga’s letter was part of a flurry of communication on the fateful day as officials in the security sector sharpened their pencils and pondered on how they were to respond to the protest march by the MDC Alliance which had been peeved by the delays in the release of presidential election results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

“Reference is made to our correspondence dated 29 July 2018 and our conversation of this morning…I write to request, in terms of Section 213 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, as read with Section 37(1) of the Public Order and Security Act for the immediate assistance of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to suppress the violent disturbance of peace and security in Harare Central police district and other districts around Harare Metropolitan Province,” read part of Matanga’s letter.

The police boss noted in his letter that his men and women were no match to the demonstrators thus the intervention by the army was the only solution to stop the protests from spreading.

He said the police had intelligence that more people were going to pour into the streets of Harare.

In his letter to Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Mpofu also refers to the July 29 letter from Matanga as he pleaded for military intervention.

“We kindly request for the authorisation for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to assist the Zimbabwe Republic Police Service to fulfil its constitutional mandate of maintaining peace order in Harare,” reads part of Mpofu’s letter.

Chiwenga, who at the time held the Defence ministry portfolio wrote to Mnangagwa seeking permission to deploy the army and relayed the response from the President to the Defence Forces as given.

“I kindly request for your authorisation of the immediate deployment of the Defence Forces to assist the Zimbabwe Republic Police Service in the maintenance of public order as requested by the ministry of Home Affairs,” reads Chiwenga’s letter.

After writing to Mnangagwa, Chiwenga then wrote to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Philip Valerio Sibanda.

“…the President as commander-in-chief of Defence Forces has authorised the deployment of the Defence Forces, in support of the Police Service in the maintenance of public order.

“Accordingly, as sanctioned by law, I hereby direct you to command the Defence Forces to immediately deploy and assist the Zimbabwe Republic Police Service to quell the violent disturbances in Harare Central Police district and other areas within Harare Metropolitan province,” said Chiwenga.

Former Zanu PF spin-doctor Jonathan Moyo said the Motlanthe commission report, in spite of being poorly written, badly reasoned and self-contradictory, let the cat out of the bag about who authorised the army deployments.

“Its saving grace is that it puts paid to the lie that Mnangagwa did not know who deployed the Army on 1 August,” said Moyo.

The country’s largest opposition party has, however, rejected in toto the report by the commission established by Mnangagwa in October this year.
The MDC was quoted saying it is unhappy with the report and rejects the document in its entirety.

MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the report leaves more questions than answers.

“With respect, it was just a public relations show for Zanu PF. We reject the report in its entirety but sadly for Zimbabwe we are back to square zero,” he said.

Mafume said any attempt to blame the victims in the report will not wash, saying if anything the MDC must be applauded for resisting unconstitutional means of redress despite years of suffering.

“As we have always predicted the outcomes of the commission are clearly bound on whitewashing the killing of unarmed innocent civilians by soldiers and create a climate of impunity for such killings while equating the victim with the perpetrator,” said Mafume.

From the onset, Chamisa’s party has had serious misgivings about the establishment of the commission.

The MDC views Mnangagwa as an illegitimate leader who rigged his way into power.

When Chamisa was invited to appear before the commission, he had difficulty in accepting the invitation on the basis that Mnangagwa was an interested party and the fact that some of the commissioners were associated with Zanu PF.

The party is reviving the same arguments, saying the commission could not be expected to be impartial because of its composition and “could not therefore finger those whole stole power”.

Mafume said the terms of reference for the commission were problematic in that they were judgmental and couched as a witch-hunt in a way that could result in immunity for those who killed unarmed civilians in the full glare of the public; international community and; those who commanded them to do so.

“Justice has not been done, victims are turning in their graves, families have been insulted and millions of taxpayers’ money have been wasted,” said the MDC spokesperson.

According to the report, the demonstrations which rocked the country a few days after the watershed elections were pre-planned and the protestors were members of the opposition.

It recommended the compensation of victims of the violence and the establishment of an inter-party liaison committee to try and end the polarisation in Zimbabwe.

Zanu PF said it will study the report before commenting on it.

“The party’s leadership will only pronounce itself after going through the report,” said party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo. – Daily News