President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa has sensationally claimed that none of his lieutenants gave orders for the fatal shooting of seven civilians, where soldiers opened fired into groups of protesters in Harare on August 1 to quell protests by opposition MDC Alliance activists.
In a recent interview with Independent Foreign Service, Mnangagwa said he regretted the killings, but insisted that no one among his lieutenants gave soldiers the order to shoot indiscriminately into the crowded city streets, killing seven people and injuring at least 14 others.
“No one gave orders … there is this perception and it is disjointed. I explained, the army has a strict command structure, I am the commander-in-chief and matters are handled according to the process,” he said.
“I consulted the commissioner-general of police (Godwin Matanga) and he indicated to me that in terms of the law, the commissioner of police can contact his counterpart who commands the local unit to give him immediate support while the process is ongoing,” Mnangagwa told Independent Foreign Service journalist Peta Thorncroft.
“The entire country was in a jovial mood. No one expected the violence that happened so suddenly. The police were taken by surprise. They were deployed countrywide, covering the election process. So suddenly, the small unit (left in Harare) could not control what was happening: In terms of the law, police are allowed to summon assistance to bring order.”
The matter has received international condemnation with human rights groups and victims’ families calling for trial of the killer soldiers and their commanders.
The Zanu PF leader, whose recent electoral victory is being challenged at the Constitutional Court by his rival MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, said he had identified British and South African experts to help investigate the shooting incident.
“We regret what happened thereafter and since then. This should not happen again. We are instituting a commission of inquiry and to give it more flavour and transparency we are bringing people in from abroad,” he said.
“I have one name from South Africa, one from the United Kingdom to consider with three names to join us to look at the matter. The inquiry will begin immediately after the inauguration.”
Mnangagwa claimed he had not yet seen a photograph shown in the media of a soldier shooting at fleeing protesters in kneeling position and another stepping forward to stop him on August 1.
“I have not seen that picture. Orders have been given about all those people who took the law into their own hands, whether it was police or others who take the law into their own hands. I also don’t want to pre-empt the outcomes of the commission I am instituting.”
The Zanu PF leader dismissed reports of opposition activists brutally assaulted by ‘rogue soldiers’ in post-election retributive attacks.
“Let me assure you, the best thing to do is get the list of 150 cases and pass it onto us. This is fake news and it’s flying left, right and centre. We were told (of these cases) by Philippe van Damme, the EU ambassador here, and we took him to task and said let’s go around all the hospitals in Harare and see if there is any record of people in hospitals. He had to later apologise as this was not true,” he said.
“Be wary of Zimbabwe human rights groups. They have an agenda. They have always been against the government. They have not changed their minds, they have not shifted their mindset to become democratic but that will take time. We must deal with facts and not any speculation. Whatever you hear try to check and I think the police will be able to assist you in checking.”
Mnangagwa also dismissed reports that citizens were now afraid of the military and police following the post-election crackdown on opposition leaders and their supporters.
“I have not received information from my party or from the general public or from any citizen saying I am fearful. Never, never. You will see the police walking in uniform. It is legitimate, it’s allowed by the law. You will see soldiers in their trucks. They are not on a mission to intimidate,” he said.
“Our police and our army they are very friendly, we have defence forces week, where they go around building clinics, building schools to show the army and the public are in good relations. So this fake news about our people … that they are afraid of the army.”
He also disclosed that former President Robert Mugabe would be stripped of all his farms and left with one.
“It’s not a question of voluntary giving up, but about complying with the policy. I am still receiving evidence of what the (former) First Family had. When that process is complete they will select one farm and the rest will be given elsewhere,” Mnangagwa said.
“We have the land commission, and this is one of the matters they are seized with attending to. It’s not on the basis of the family, (one family, one farm). It is on the basis of government policy. There are so many others families who have more than one farm. It must all be governed by the size of the farm,” he said.
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