By A Correspondent- Soldiers who shot and killed innocent civilians on 1 August 2018 have not been prosecuted, four years on, with growing calls for justice falling on deaf ears.
Despite appointing former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe to chair a commission of inquiry and make recommendations after the shootings which claimed six lives and left dozens others injured, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has ignored the voice of reason, including calls for justice by the victims and their families.
This, observers said, was indicative of impunity where state security can kill innocent civilians without repercussion.
It is reminiscent of the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide in Matabeleland and the Midlands where the 5th Brigade brutally killed civilians. Nearly 40 years after 20 000 civilians were killed, there is still no justice.
The government has neither apologised for Gukurahundi nor atoned for the 1 August shootings.
So far, only one victim, with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, sued Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and her Home Affairs counterpart Kazembe Kazembe and won his case. He is set to receive ZW$3 million in compensation.
Zakeo Mutimutema suffered injuries when soldiers shot him during the post-election protest in the capital.
He is among dozens shot on 1 August 2018 when protesters stormed the streets to demand the release of the presidential vote.
Six civilians were shot dead in central Harare when soldiers opened fire indiscriminately. According to autopsy reports, victims were shot in the back while fleeing the marauding soldiers.
Despite spending taxpayers’ money on instituting the commission of inquiry, the government has conveniently chosen to ignore the recommendations, which include the compensation of victims and bringing to book the murderous soldiers.
Four years on, families are still seeking justice while the victims live with the haunting memories of the shootings.
Loveday Munesi, a victim, still has a bullet lodged in one of his buttocks, after failing to secure funding for surgery in India.
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa’s failure to bring to book the culprits, most of them still serving members of the military, is an indication that more atrocities against civilians could be committed in future and justice will never be served.
“The Motlanthe commission of inquiry into the shootings report has recommendations that have been thrown into the dustbin by Mnangagwa,” Mukundu said.
“The issue is forgotten and there seems to be no intention to address this matter,” he added.
He said those implicated, including senior military officers who dispatched soldiers onto the streets to shoot unarmed civilians, were still in the army while some have been deployed to key government institutions.
One of them, the then commander of the Presidential Guard, Anselem Sanyatwe, who also testified before the Motlanthe commission, is now Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.
“The message is the same: abuses can be repeated. There is no justice for the victims and it was a way of silencing critics by way of pretending to act, but the true character of government is coming out on the matter,” Mukundu.
Added Mukundu: “It is not a surprise because the current government is hugely militarised and will not turn against themselves because they are in government and are the ones who are in power.”
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director Blessing Vava said there was growing concern over the government’s reluctance to act on the recommendations.
“The Coalition has held a series of interviews with relatives of the victims of the August 1, 2018 shootings and concern is high over non-implementation of the recommendations of the Motlanthe commission of inquiry,” Vava said.
Vava said ensuring justice and bringing closure to the events of 1 August 2018 is critical for national healing and reconciliation.
“We implore President Emmerson Mnangagwa to own up to his pledge of a new dispensation and ensure the implementation of the recommendations.”