Harare, Zimbabwe | AFP | An inquest into the fatal shooting of six people in post-election violence in Zimbabwe squarely blamed the military and police on Tuesday, saying the use of live fire was “unjustified and disproportionate”.
The victims were gunned down and dozens others were wounded when soldiers opened fire at protesters demonstrating in Harare on August 1 over delays in announcing the vote results.
“The commission’s finding is that the deaths of those six people arose from the action of the military and the police,” said a summary read out by President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the 1,290-page report.
“It’s undisputed that the six people died as a result of gunshot wounds.”
The commission found that 35 people suffered injuries and it recommended an investigation to identify those responsible.
“The use of live ammunition directly at people especially while they were fleeing was clearly unjustified and disproportionate,” the report said, adding that the firing of live ammunition in the air was justified.
The probe team said the protests were pre-planned and that political leaders “heightened tensions”, citing speeches by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
The seven-member commission, led by former South African president Kgalema Mothlante, was instituted by Mnangagwa.
The shootings triggered international outrage and undermined Mnangagwa’s attempts to present the July 30 election as a fresh start for Zimbabwe after the brutal reign of his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
The probe said the government had followed the law in deploying the army.
“Had the riots not been checked the situation could have escalated resulting in disastrous consequences,” it said.
Army commanders who gave testimonies during the commission hearings claimed soldiers only fired warning shots into the air.
Mnangagwa, who has previously blamed the deaths on the MDC party, said the government would “study the recommendations and decide the way forward”.
“I am satisfied that the commission of inquiry diligently carried out its mandate,” he said.
Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Mugabe who was ousted following a brief military takeover in November 2017, and won the election with just enough votes to avoid a second-round run-off.
He hoped the vote, which was also hit by fraud charges, would help end the country’s international isolation and attract foreign investors to revive the moribund economy.
The commission recommended government compensation for the victims’ families and injured survivors.