Harare East legislator and opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice president Tendai Biti said it was regrettable that – less than a year before the 2023 elections – political violence was again on the increase.
4th anniversary of the August 1 tragedy
On Monday, Zimbabwe marked the fourth anniversary of the August 1, 2018 tragedy when the military was unleashed to forcefully put down post-election violent post-election demonstrations resulting in six people losing their lives and dozens being injured.
Opposition supporters had massed onto the streets of Harare, protesting delays in the release of results for elections held days earlier. The vote was bitterly disputed by then opposition MDC Alliance which accused the election management body of rigging the ballot in favour of Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Biti, also a leading constitutional and human rights lawyer, recently warned in Parliament that Zimbabwe was not too far away from a tragedy on the scale of the 1994 genocide which left nearly one million people dead.
“Today is the 1st of August 2022, four years after August 1, 2018 where several people were shot in broad daylight. It is regrettable that despite the fact that former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe presented his findings in that report,” he said.
“It is regrettable that with less than a year before we go to the 2023 election, the issues that we raised in that report have not been addressed. The issues of violence, intimidation, capture, cohesion and a closed political situation are on the increase.”
Motlanthe Commission – The missed targets
A international commission of inquiry headed by former South Africa president Kgalema Motlanthe was appointed President Mnangagwa to look into the 2018 post-election violence.
However, critics are concerned that its key recommendations have not been implemented, particularly on the issue of accountability where the Commission recommended that;
“All those responsible for the alleged crimes on the 1st of August 2018 should be prosecuted. Members of the Army and Police who were in breach of their professional duties and discipline should be identified as soon as possible for internal investigations and appropriate sanction, which should include hearing from victims and their families for impact assessment,”
According the advocacy group Veritas while dozens of rioters were arrested nothing seems to have been done to sanction members of the security services.
“Quite the reverse, in fact,” the group said.
“The tactical commander of the unit of the Presidential Guard force deployed to deal with the demonstrations, , retired from the army in December 2018 with the enhanced rank of Lieutenant General and was appointed ambassador to Tanzania.”
Biti wants international pressure on Zanu PF
Biti said the failure to deal with perpetrators of political violence as well as to implement the recommendations of the Motlanthe commission had encouraged a “most regrettable” culture of impunity.
“We actually see an increase in political violence, an increase in gun crime, cases of assault are on the increase too and, only last week, we had activists who were thoroughly beaten up in Mutoko for just putting on yellow t-shirts,” he said.
“A week ago, my car was stormed in Muzarabani. We have had the murder of Moreblessing Ali last month.
“We have the incarceration of the Nyatsime 13, that of Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole. It is quite clear that things are going to be worse than 2018.”
The erstwhile coalition government finance minister implored the international community to intervene and press the Harare government to abide by the country’s constitution.
“We urge the SADC leadership to intervene, the situation in Zimbabwe is abnormal, the situation in Zimbabwe needs international intervention,” he said.
“The regime must just abide by the constitution and the rule of law. They must just stop killing people, harassing citizens. This message will just fall on deaf ears, I know; they are entrenched.
“Their DNA is violence and, particularly now, they have failed to run the economy. Social services have collapsed, public services have collapsed. We are likely to see a greater acceleration of closure of the political space as we approach 2023”.