Zimbabwe 'killer soldiers' facing the gun

Published: 11 October 2019
IN A surprise development, a close confidante of President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the long-awaited prosecution of soldiers who killed innocent civilians in August last year will begin next year, the Daily News reports. The revelation by Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, that the post-2019 election killings will soon be dealt with, comes as Zimbabwe is escalating its push to be re-admitted into both the Commonwealth and the broader international community.

It also comes as both political analysts and worried insiders have raised concerns about the slow pace of reforms by the government, as well as its failure to remove laws that are at odds with the country's 2013 Constitution from the statute books.

Analysts are also bemoaning the fact that the government has thus far been talking more instead of walking the talk on reforms. At the same time, where re- forms have been made, these have been "half-baked" with residues of past restrictive measures remaining intact.

In an article this week in an Australian publication, the Spectator, Moyo said although Zimbabwe still had a long way to go to achieve its reform agenda, it was now different from the isolated country that it was two years ago, before the late former president Robert Mugabe was removed from power.

The minister also said the establishment of a commission
of inquiry into last year's post- election killings  which was led by former South African president Kgalame Motlanthe was ample evidence that the country had turned the corner.

"Zimbabwe has rapidly begun the task of implementing the com- mission's key recommendations that include reforming legislation on law and order, freedom and the liberalisation of the media and electoral reforms and we can expect prosecutions of those responsible to begin next year, after the police and prosecution services have completed their post-inquiry investigations," he said.

The Motlanthe Commission, notwithstanding its weaknesses, established that soldiers had used disproportionate force in addition to recommending the prosecution of the soldiers who opened fire on unarmed civilians.

Moyo, a retired soldier who became famous for announcing the November 2017 military coup, also said the world should bear with Zimbabwe as it moved to put its house in order through the alignment of laws and the reformation of key sectors such as the country's security set-up.

"Major reforms that repeal and replace laws infringing personal and economic freedoms are under way, leading to a rise in global rankings for freedom of expression and placing Zimbabwe among the top 20 most improved nations in the World Bank's Doing Business 2020 Index.

"Yet, after two decades of isolation, blanket change is required. Our reform agenda has only just started, and therefore is today partial  and we do not pretend otherwise.

"Currently, we are undertaking all these reforms  all the painful processes that are needed and necessary  without any form of external assistance," Moyo said.

"But ultimately, we cannot go it alone and that's why Zimbabwe now looks to Australia for support to expedite our re-admission to the Commonwealth.

"Put simply, our speed and capacity to complete reforms after the Mugabe-era isolation can be accelerated by our Commonwealth return.

"Similarly, the bilateral partnership between Australia and Zimbabwe and opportunities for

Australian businesses can only benefit from the inclusion of both nations within the Commonwealth family," Moyo added.

This comes as efforts by Mnangagwa to re-engage the West have been dampened by the gov- ernment's own actions, particularly the killing of civilians last August and in January this year, as well as the abduction of civil rights activists and the blanket ban on MDC demonstrations.

Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said yesterday that it was disappointing to see that Mnangagwa's government had been short on delivery, but long on promises.

As a result, he added, the gov- ernment was unlikely to convince an increasingly sceptical world that it was a worthy partner.

"People were killed in August 2018 and we are now in October, and so why the delay in prosecu- tions. Why next year? This defies logic.

"This is clearly about buying time. The key is for the govern- ment to take action now and not give the world empty promises. What if the Commonwealth says we will wait until you take action?

"From my reading of the condi- tions that have been set by western countries, it is clear that the gov- ernment should take action now," Masunungure said.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu also said the government had to do more, as the world was "fully acquainted" with the Zimba- bwean situation.

"My reading is that this is mere rhetoric and the world can see through the falsity of this reform agenda. What we have seen is the removal of the military bosses that were directly involved in the Au- gust shootings, but we still see the hand of the military in everything.

"There is a lack of appreciation of the demands that the world is making. If reforms are made, these will speak for themselves ... so, there is a dichotomy between what SB is saying and what is on the ground," Mukundu said.

During his visit to the United Kingdom in June this year, Moyo also outlined what Harare had done thus far, in terms of imple- menting much-needed reforms.

"My visit here has only strengthened our commitment to re-engagement. We thus remain committed to economic and politi- cal reforms in our nation ... and mending fences with all those who wish to engage with us.

"Three separate Bills that are meant to repeal Aippa and bring within constitutional parameters the disseminating of public infor- mation ... that are meant to guar- antee press freedom, are currently before Parliament.

"Similarly the amendment of the Public Order Security and Maintenance Act, is underway.

"We hope that there will be sincere and concerted engagement

with these amendments both in Parliament and in public consulta- tions, as these are laws that have toxified the relationship between government and its critics, both in and outside the country," Moyo said then.

"Other key political reforms include the restructuring of the security sector, partly by way of implementation of recommendations put forward by the Montlanthe Commission in the wake of post-election violence, further compounded by the January 14 and 15 violence.

"The process of consultation on this exercise is well-advanced," Moyo added.

In September 2018, Mnangag- wa appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the post July 30, 2018 violence which sullied the historic vote.

The probe was headed by Motlanthe with the other members of the inquiry being academics Lovemore Madhuku and Charity Manyeruke, Law Society of Zimbabwe ex-president Vimbai Nyemba, Rodney Dixon of the United Kingdom, former Tanzanian chief of the defence forces General Davis Mwamunyange and ex Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.

The post-election killings cast a huge pall over Zimbabwe's hopes of recovering from years of ruinous rule under Mugabe. The shootings occurred after millions of Zimbabweans had cast their votes to choose both a new Parliament and president following the dramatic fall from power of Mugabe.

The elections were the first since 1980 to be held in the coun- try without Mugabe's participation, whose 37-year, iron-fisted rule
was stunningly ended by a military coup that triggered events that ended with his resignation.

The elections also marked the first time that the main opposition MDC was not represented by its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his battle against colon cancer on Valentine's Day last year.

- dailynews
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