A public inquiry into the deaths of at least six people after Zimbabwe’s landmark elections started hearing oral testimonies Tuesday with witnesses pointing fingers at the opposition, which has already labelled the probe “pre-emptive”.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed the seven-member commission of inquiry, led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, after at least six people died when the army opened fire on post-poll protests in August.
Protesters had taken to the streets of Harare accusing the country’s electoral commission of delaying the announcement of results for general elections held on July 30.
“We have urged all the eyewitnesses and all those who have information that may assist the work of the commission, to please come forward,” Motlanthe said at the start of the public hearings at Cresta Lodge.
Motlanthe said the commission would, “investigate circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order”.
It will also “consider whether the degree of force used was appropriate to ensuring the threat to public safety law and order among other things”.
In recent days the commission has been accepting written submissions
In her oral testimony, witness Patricia Ruzawi, blamed opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters for the violence.
“They were saying ‘down with Mnangagwa’ and (that) they were tired of elections being rigged. And they were saying this will not happen again,” Ruzawi said.
Nyasha Zenda, a Zanu PF member and election candidate, said he was assaulted by MDC supporters who later burned his campaign bus.
Zanu PF employee, Peter Zimowa, said he saw protesters stoning the party headquarters while he and other party officials and workers were inside the building.
“They were throwing stones and bottles at a big (Mnangagwa) poster which they pulled down and burned,” Zimowa said.
Milton Tapindwa Muwori, a street vendor, said he had received an anonymous call earlier advising him to remove his goods. Rowdy youths chanting slogans like ‘ED igarwe ngaridzoke mumvura’ assaulted him and set his stall ablaze, he testified.
“Soldiers arrived at around 5PM and fired shots. The youths went in the direction of fire,” he said.
The MDC which is led by Nelson Chamisa, has dismissed the commission of inquiry saying it consisted of known Zanu PF supporters and sympathisers.
“The commission already has problems of preemptive terms of references and conflicted members including Zanu PF card-carrying members,” MDC spokesman Jacob Mafume said in a statement.
The opposition vowed not to take part in the “circus”.
The team that includes Nigerian former Commonwealth secretary-general Emeka Anyaoku, British lawyer Rodney Dixon and Tanzanian former defence forces chief Davis Mwamunyange, has three months to complete its investigations and report back to the president.