Some Blame for Everyone, Impunity for the Bosses
The Montlanthe Commission’s Bundle of Contradictions
Preliminary Statement on the Commission of Inquiry
on the August 1 Post Election Violence Report
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) takes note of the of the Commission of Inquiry on the August 1, 2018 Post Election Violence (the Commission) released on December 18, 2018 at Munhumutapa Building by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The Forum is studying the report and consulting with relevant stakeholders. A detailed response to the report will be published soon. This statement gives some preliminary comments to the report.
The Forum has been following the work of the Commission since its appointment and raised a number of issues with the Commission’s terms of reference, operational procedures, approach to handling evidence, credibility of the Secretariat and security for witnesses and victims.
The Forum’s interest is the protection of the rights of the victims, and the general upholding of human rights principles as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Constitution of Zimbabwe which protects the right to life in section 48. The Forum is also interested in the procedures adopted by the Commission and the manner in which it executed its duties. This preliminary statement is based on the four principles against impunity that guided our monitoring process and the mandate given to the Forum by members and victims who have an interest in the case. These principles help us reflect purposively on the whole process culminating in the report.
These principles are the following:
- The right to know
- The right to reparation
- The right to justice
- Guarantee of non-recurrence
- Much Ado About Nothing- After reading the report of the Commission, one really wonders if the Commission was necessary at all, as its findings appear to be general and pedestrian. Considering that Zimbabwe already has two Commissions with constitutional mandates to investigate violations of human rights, it was perhaps a waste of resources as the Montlanthe Commission gave no new perspective to the issues and avoided the real issues.
- A Bundle of Contradictions- The report of the Commission is full of contradictions that leave one confused. For example, the Commission makes an outrageous finding that the unleashing of the military on civilians was justified and done with the compliance of the law. At the same time, the Commission finds that the deployment was unlawful as the Public Order and Security Act was not complied with. (See page 46 of the report) There are many such contradictions which will be explored in our full analysis.
- The Missing Truths- The Commission did not arrive at the truth sought. The right to know is the first among the principles against impunity. International law generally acknowledges that the right to know is an emerging right and victims have the right to know. Impunity thrives in the darkness of untruths. This right to know includes the right to know the names of the people who committed violations and why they committed such violations, following whose instructions. The Commission’s report does not answer the critical questions about 1 August 2018. It does not tell who deployed the military and gave the orders to shoot. The soldiers who entered the streets on 1 August where armed with tools to shoot and kill. Video evidence shows that they were eager and ready to do so. This is what they did, with no remorse. The shooting happened in broad day light. And the Commission did not give the full truth to this hence abandoning one of the key principle – the right to know. The families of the deceased have the right to know who killed their beloved on August 1, 2018.
- Some Blame for Everyone and Impunity for the Bosses– Perhaps the most outrageous thing about the report is that it basically apportions blame to everyone, except the executive. It finds that the military killed civilians, and yet absolves the commanders of the military and the Commander in Chief of any wrong doing. It finds excuses for them, that there were time constraints. This is outrageous and points to perhaps the biggest problem that Zimbabwe faces - impunity. According to the report, on August 1, everyone was wrong, including the victims, except the executive and the military commanders. This is outrageous! The Forum presented evidence that the violence that happened on August 1, was systematic and the executive, especially the Commander in Chief cannot escape accountability for how the events unfolded. This brings in the issue of command responsibility which must have been investigated from the bottom to the top.
- The Right to Remedy - From the report, the Forum notes that there is need for further investigation. The report brings in the issue of Gukurahundi and abuse of women during the election period. The Forum notes the recommendation by the Commission to provide remedy for victims. Remedy for victims includes, but is not limited to, compensation for victims and medical assistance for victims. Remedy must include justice through holding perpetrators responsible for the August 1 killings accountable.
Following the release of the Commission’s report, the Forum urges the Government of Zimbabwe to seriously consider the report and findings, and to implement the recommendations by the Commission. These are recommendations that the Forum has been calling for since 1998.
For the Government of Zimbabwe
The Forum urges the Government of Zimbabwe to prioritize the following recommendations:
a) To investigate in an open and transparent manner, the actual perpetrators of the shootings, including those who gave the command and hold them accountable;
b) To quickly establish a National Reparations Fund specifically for victims of human rights violations as a permanent Fund to cater for the victims of August 1 shootings and all the other victims whom the government has refused to compensate over the years;
c) To take urgent measures towards the establishment of the Independent Complaint Mechanism in line with section 210 of the Constitution, to investigate any complaints against the security services and ensure adequate and timeous remedy to victims. The continued delay in establishing this mechanism is a violation of section 324 of the Constitution which states that all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay.
d) To initiate the process of security sector reform to ensure that the security services operate within the confines of the law according to the principles outlined in the Constitution with greater attention to the respect for human rights.
For the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission
e) To address the unresolved issue of Gukurahundi with the same urgency with which as the August 1 killings.
f) To urgently work towards catalyzing national dialogue towards ending the deep divisions within the country. This must not be about power, positions, political settlement but about national cohesion, healing and reconciliation within the framework of nation-building.
For the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
- To be seized immediately with the recommendations of the Montlanthe Commission and take over from where it left
- To begin pursuing its constitutional mandate in relation to any alleged human rights violations mentioned on the report and even beyond
The Forum will make a more detailed response to the report. This statement only carries preliminary reaction to the report. More consultations will be made with the membership of the Forum, survivors, victims and other stakeholders. Following the consultations, the Forum will give due consideration to the report and come up with an appropriate response in line with the principles against impunity and the best interests of the survivors and victims.