Today marks 2 years since 6 people lost their lives at the hands of the military in Zimbabwe. Two years on, there is still no justice for the innocent civilians. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) remains concerned with the delayed justice for the victims bearing in mind that “justice delayed is justice denied.”
Following relatively peaceful 30 July 2018 harmonised elections, protests broke out in the Harare central business district on 1 August 2018, with protesters demanding the release of the results of the presidential elections. In response, the media documented security forces indiscriminately shooting and assaulting civilians, including those who were not taking part in the protests. Some were shot at the back, as they were escaping the scenes. As a result of the shootings, six (6) people died whilst over sixty (60) more people were brutally assaulted.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to lead a Commission of Inquiry into the 2018 Post-Election Violence whose report was released on 18 December 2018. Some of the recommendations made by the commission are as follows;
- The payment of compensation for all victims of the violence and dependents of the deceased. Where the deceased had young children, the Commission recommended that they be urgently assisted with school fees and their general welfare.
- The government should put in place a special committee to assess and determine the quantum of damages and compensation to be awarded to victims on a case by case basis and their general welfare
- The government should set up a fund to assist those directly affected.
- Police to urgently complete their investigation to enable the prosecution of those persons responsible for alleged crimes committed on the 1st of August 2018.
On 28 June 2020, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Virginia Mabhiza issued a statement in which she alleged that government had fully complied with recommendations made by the Motlanthe Commission. She also stated that some of the victims’ families had not approached the Department of Social Welfare for assistance. This is all surprising as the recommendations of the Motlanthe Commission never alluded to the need for the victims’ family members to approach the Department of Social Welfare, and no public or direct communication to the victims was ever made for them to approach the Department of Social Welfare.
The Forum has also noted with concern the unrepentant nature of the State in the protection of human rights. In January 2019, the State abrogated the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry and unleashed the military into the streets once again. At that point, seventeen (17) people lost their lives. As we remember fellow citizens who lost their lives on 1 August 2018, the State has also unleashed the security forces onto the streets of Zimbabwe leading to the death of Paul Munakopa who was shot in Bulawayo and the assault and torture of many more.
Apart from the compensation of victims, there is no evidence of security sector reforms in the country as recommended by the report of the Commission of Inquiry. It is disturbing to also note that there is no record in the public domain pointing to any disciplinary action being taken against members of the armed forces who perpetrated the heinous crimes. Rather, Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe the tactical commander of the force deployed on 1 August 2018 was promoted and subsequently appointed Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Tanzania.
The 1 August 2018 events remain a fresh wound in Zimbabwe. As a result, the Forum calls on:
The government to
- fully implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry;
- learn from the past and desist from the unnecessary deployment of the military to conduct civilian policing duties;
- pursue its constitutional mandate in relation to allegations of continuous human rights violations at the hands of the State apparatus;
- prosecute military personnel who killed unarmed civilians to be held accountable for their actions; and
- reach out to the families affected and provide compensation.
- to urgently work towards reconciliation and compensation to the victims of 1 August 2018 shootings; and
- work towards prevention on recurrence.