The Motlanthe Omission of inquiry – defiled and defied Justice

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Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe headed the Commission Of Enquiry
Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe headed the Commission Of Enquiry

The 30th of July elections in Zimbabwe almost painted and sold a superficial and dummy picturesque of a changed regime to the world and hearts of many. Had the lingering demons of untamed violence and State brutality not manifested on the 1st of August, the devil could have comfortably found his way into the temple!

By Jethro Makumbe

The events of the 1st of August were bloodcurdling and heartrending, to say the least. Innocent civilians, most of who were not even taking part, directly or indirectly, in acts of insurgency, were butchered in cold blood.

The right to demonstrate in Zimbabwe is constitutional, and citizens have the right to do so, as provided for by Section 59 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No. 20 of 2013). However, despite this inalienable right, we recognise that the enjoyment of this right should and must not prejudice the rights of others, as such, any unlawful activities should have been dealt with in a proper way by the police.

It is unfortunate that despite the usual ranting and raving by the police, accusing and blaming the opposition for the 1st of August violence – and even the unfortunate murders of at least six people – not even a single arrest has been made to date in connection with the violence, except the blatant and veiled attempt to arrest the 22 MDC Alliance members who were seized with parallel vote tabulation at the party’s national headquarters, the Morgan Tsvangirai House. The 22 members have since been released after the State failed to prove a case against them.

The sanctity of human life

The killing of at least six innocent people on the 1st of August has no justification whatsoever, howsoever, and by whomsoever, even in Hades. The right to life is codified in Chapter 4 Section 48 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Section 48 emphasises on the right to life of every Zimbabwean, whether delinquent or not. Whatever crime the protesters were committing, or alleged to have been committing, could not have warranted the wanton murder of unarmed civilians by the uniformed forces – according to the pictorial and video evidence we have so far.

These murders, purely criminal in nature, were against the laws of Zimbabwe, and they must be given the condemnation they deserve, and must be prosecuted befittingly in a competent court of law, without fear or favour. Only the prosecution of the murderers and truth, will give a proper purgation and catharsis to the August 1st events.

The Motlanthe Commission – A post-mortem analysis

 On the 19th of August 2018, Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed Kgalema Motlanthe as the chairman of a commission to inquire into the post-election violence of 1st August. The commission was composed of seven commissioners whose selection was a sole prerogative of the President. In light of natural justice principles, particularly at this point, the nemo judex in sua cosa (literally meaning; no man can be a judge in his own case), President Mnangagwa was never the right person to appoint a commission to investigate a case in which he is an accomplice.

The most honourable thing he could have done was to recuse himself and let independent establishments to appoint commissioners whose integrity to the task was unquestionable, and commissioners that are undefiled and acceptable to all. It is a common principle of logic and justice that a criminal cannot choose a judge to hear case in which he/she is being convicted of. The decision by Emmerson Mnangagwa to appoint a commission was not only faulty at law, but also mischievous.

The terms of reference for the commission were grossly insipid and a deliberately unscrupulous attempt by the presidium to sway the focus of the commission from the crux of the issues at stake. The terms of reference were merely pre-emptive of a desired outcome and were disingenuously designed not to find out the truth, but to shift the blame.

The preoccupation of the terms of reference on placing the blame on demonstrators and their alleged leaders was simply disturbing and un-strategic by whosoever designed them. The indispensable need to find out who deployed, ordered, and murdered innocent civilians on the 1st of August was a loud and conspicuous deliberate omission on the terms of reference.

The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, in accordance with Section 213 of the Constitution, is responsible for deploying the Defence Forces. And as the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, and the only authority with an exclusive right to deploy the army, was, in all essence, supposed to have been the first witness to be summoned before the Motlanthe commission to explain how he deployed the army into the streets of Harare without Parliament and Cabinet approval. The procedures that the police and the army followed were inconsistent with the current Constitution, thereby invalid and illegal.

It was very worrying and disheartening when a whole convocation of army and police generals came to the commission to exhibit their shameful mathematical deficiencies and lack of logical consistency as they were narrating their uninspiring and conspicuously fabricated cacophony of lies.

Their testimonies were a devious concoction of lies, deceit and malice. “The soldier was shooting into the air at an angle of 45˚,” said Anselem Sanyatwe, the National Reaction Team Commander. My foot! This military formula of 45˚ is so outlandish, scathing and laughable, it defies all logic. The pictorial and video evidence of a crouching soldier firing a salvo into the running crowd is a monumental justification and answer to the who killed who question.

The composition of the commission, the kind of factual dishonesty that some of the witnesses unashamedly exhibited under oath, and the prejudice against some witnesses leaves a lot to be envied about the commission. The crouching soldier was supposed to be invited to explain his behaviour and give a mathematical formula as to how his automatic AK47 assault rifle, as it appeared on the video that went viral of social media, was shooting at 45˚ angle.

Our leaders in Zimbabwe must learn that sometimes there are benefits that can be accrued by owning-up. We hope, as a nation, that the Motlanthe commission, despite all its shortcomings and the misgivings that were levelled against it by the people of Zimbabwe, was guided by principles of truth, objectivity and fairness, otherwise the whole three months they’ve been roaming around in Zimbabwe, gobbling the taxpayers’ money, will amount to nothing.

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