Tendai Manzvanzvike Foreign Editor
MDC Alliance leader Advocate Nelson Chamisa and co-principal Tendai Biti are some of the high-profile figures expected to give oral evidence before the Motlanthe Commission this week.
The international commission set up by President Mnangagwa in September is trying to establish the circumstances that led to the August 1 tragic shooting of six citizens in the midst of protests by the MDC Alliance supporters in Harare’s Central Business District.
The commission has so far recorded oral evidence from several individuals, including the Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Police Commissioner-General Tandabantu Godwin Matanga, tactical commander of the National Reaction Force Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, medical doctors, journalists, relatives of the deceased and witnesses from various walks of life.
Apart from Harare, the Commission has also been to Bulawayo and Mutare.
The hearings, which are beamed live on various digital platforms including ZBC TV, have enabled people to be actively involved through social media discussions.
This is a refreshing development because people want to know the truth behind the demonstrations and the shootings.
Relatives of the deceased and the nation at large want closure to an incident that also resulted in massive destruction of property in Harare’s CBD.
Zimbabwe also needs to move on and resolve other critical challenges such as the economy, instead of remaining in an election mode, when 2023 is five years away.
Despite reservations raised in some quarters about appointing an international commission, the general observation remains that the evidence so far placed before the commission would not otherwise be in the public domain. The commission has so far exhibited professionalism considering the sensitivities surrounding the issue.
Commission chairperson Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also former South African president, last month pointed out that they would remain impartial as they carried out their mandate.
“We were sworn in on the 19th of September, 2018 and we subscribed to an oath that each and every one of us will faithfully, impartially and to the best of our ability discharge the trust and perform the duties to the best of our abilities.
“We therefore want to assure the citizens of Zimbabwe that we will carry out this inquiry in terms of the law,” said Mr Motlanthe.
In the same spirit, we hope that individuals appearing before the Motlanthe Commission do not think that it is a popularity contest, dominated by a “them” and “us” attitude.
Apart from the destruction of property, and the general disturbance of peace, those who give oral evidence should understand that six people needlessly lost their lives.
Their families lost breadwinners, fathers, mothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, etc. And Zimbabwe lost citizens. Therefore, to treat the commission as child’s play will be a disservice to the bereaved families, and the nation at large.
We raise these issues because of the conduct exhibited before the commission last week, where some played to the gallery, totally disregarding the letter and spirit of the inquiry’s terms of reference.
Maturity and wisdom should prevail above personalities and egos. What August 1, 2018 means to the image of Zimbabwe, not only in partisan politics, resonates with how the nation moves on, for that is the only natural thing to do.
Turning around the economy is not just the responsibility of the Zanu-PF Government, but of every Zimbabwean – young and old; male and female. Party politics should be on the back burner. Those called upon to give oral evidence must not lose sight of this.
MDC-Alliance supporters must also be aware that the commission has nine terms of reference that have been guiding them since they started gathering evidence.
Since their leadership are expected to testify this week, we reiterate those terms that members of the commission subscribed an oath to:
(i) to inquire into the circumstances leading to the 1st August, 2018, post-election violence;
(ii) to identify the actors and their leaders, their motives and strategies employed in the protests;
(iii) to inquire into the intervention by the ZRP in the maintenance of law and order;
(iv) to investigate the circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order;
(v) to consider whether the degree of force used was proportionate to the ensuing threat to public safety, law and order;
(vi) to ascertain extent of damage or injury caused thereof;
(vii) to investigate into any other matter, which the Commission of Inquiry may deem appropriate and relevant to the inquiry;
(viii) to make suitable recommendations; and,
(ix) to report to the President, in writing, the result of the inquiry within the period of three months from the date of swearing in of the commission.
Thus it is a defining moment for Chamisa and colleagues, for it will expose leadership and/or lack of it. They should not be seen to abuse the commission, turning it into a populist platform.