HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government should thoroughly investigate last week’s army killings of seven people and the injury of many others following post-electoral violence in Harare, Amnesty International (AI) has said.
Violent protests erupted on Wednesday last week after it became apparent that the opposition MDC Alliance was headed for poll defeat by Zanu PF based on official results that were being announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
The Nelson Chamisa-led coalition accused Zec chairperson, Priscilla Chigumba, of rigging the presidential election.
In a statement released in the aftermath of the shooting, the global rights lobby group’s acting secretary-general Colm Ó Cuanacháin regretted the use of firearms by government as a way of containing violence.
“It is unfortunate that this election has descended into bloodshed, which could have been avoided if security forces had exercised restraint against protesters.
“The army’s conduct should be promptly investigated, with those responsible brought to justice,” said Cuanacháin.
He also noted that by using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, the army broke the very same rule of law they should safeguard.
“The militarisation of the prevailing post-election environment is muzzling freedom of expression, association and assembly. People must be guaranteed their right to protest,” said AI.
Government has blamed the MDC Alliance leadership for the shootings saying they incited their supporters to be violent.
AI nevertheless expressed concern over the fact that some of the deceased and those injured were shot from the back suggesting that they were actually fleeing not advancing towards the soldiers.
It also slammed the army for allegedly directing journalists covering the demonstrations to switch off their video recording equipment for fear of exposing Mnangagwa’s high-handedness in dealing with civil protests.
“The loss of life for people protesting for the release of the election results was totally unnecessary.
“They wanted to see how they had voted and Zimbabwean authorities had a duty to facilitate this in a peaceful manner, without deploying the army to the streets,” said Cuanacháin.
“Media freedom must also be guaranteed and respected in this prevailing post-election environment. Journalists should not be intimidated for doing their work.”
Following delays by Zec in releasing the results of the presidential poll, MDC Alliance demonstrators suspected that the electoral management body was up to no good.
Mnangagwa, who is now president-elect, was later declared to have polled 50,8 percent of the vote, ahead of Chamisa’s 44,9 percent.
While Mnangagwa maintains that he won freely and fairly and has since been conciliatory in his speeches saying Chamisa will have a role to play in his government despite losing, the MDC Alliance leader declared last week that he was the winner in the election with 56 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has also condemned the deployment of the army into the country’s major centres and mounting of roadblocks in cities and across the country’s major highways.
This followed the disputed July 30 polls that have so far claimed seven lives following protests in Harare.
CiZC said the response by the military to fire live ammunition into crowds was regrettable.
“The commissioner-general of police’s attempts to justify the deployment of soldiers arguing that the police had invoked section 37 of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) is both unconstitutional and ill-advised,” said CiZC spokesperson, Tabani Moyo.
“As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we firmly hold the view that the military must not usurp policing duties from the police. We remain greatly worried on the safety of citizens following the shootings and the beatings of civilians in Harare and Chitungwiza.
“The continued presence of the army on the streets only confirms our view that since the military coup of November 15, 2017, human security in Zimbabwe is at stake.
The coalition said it is equally worried with the intimidation and assault of media personnel covering an MDC Alliance press conference in Harare on Friday last week.
“In addition, both local and international journalists have been assaulted by the army and police while carrying out their constitutionally-guaranteed duties.
“Such undemocratic actions confirm our fears that the Mnangagwa administration is not sincere with ensuring that the country moves towards a more open and democratic society through reforms to State institutions and the political environment,” Moyo said.
Moyo said these events were an indictment on the part of government and the military contingent.
“Following the military coup of November 2017, we have been clear as Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition that the only way for Zimbabwe to return to its constitutional order is to uphold the dictates of Chapter 4 of the Constitution and repeal of legislation that curtails human freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
“We reiterate our position that Zimbabwe is now a fully-fledged military State and that unleashing the military on unarmed civilians can only plunge Zimbabwe into a deeper crisis,” said CiZC, adding that it implores on regional, continental and international partners to intervene in resolving the crisis which if unabated, is a potential threat to peace and stability in the southern region and the globe at large.