41 arrested over Aug 1 post-election violence

HARARE - Forty one people have been arrested in connection with the August 1 shootings that claimed six people in post-election protests that were met by a military crackdown, detective chief inspector Edmore Muchineripi Runganga told a Commission of Inquiry yesterday.

Among the 41 who have been arrested and are on remand pending trial are MDC deputy national chairperson Tendai Biti and Jim Kunaka, who Runganga said were facing charges of public violence.

Runganga was the head of the police team handling the August 1 events.

He told the Kgalema Montlanthe-led probe team that murder investigations into the shootings of the six civilians had not yet commenced.

“So far we have arrested 41 people in relation to violence and damages that occurred on the day in question. They have appeared before the courts and are on remand, pending trial,” Runganga said.

He said among the 41 arrested were demonstrators who had committed crimes during the demonstrations, noting that most of them were from Nelson Chamisa’s MDC.

The detective said investigations into the murder of the six deceased will now begin, as the team is now in possession of post-mortem reports indicating that the deaths were caused by fire arms.

He said his team had not recovered any cartridges except for those handed by the commission after Monday’s session of hearings.

“Up to today, we haven’t received any cartridges except for those we obtained through the commission,” he said.

Commissioner Lovemore Madhuku asked the detective why the investigations were taking ages, adding that from the testimonies heard by the commission so far, it was clear that the army was involved in the August 1 killings.

The commission also asked Runganga if his department had accessed the video of “the kneeling, shooting soldier” that had gone viral on social media; suggesting that he could contact an international broadcaster for the footage.

Earlier during yesterday’s hearings, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) Justice Priscilla Chigumba gave her testimony, outlining the processes that occurred during the polls.

Chigumba told the hearing that there were delays in the announcement of results since the V23 and V11 forms had to be transported physically by road to Harare as the Electoral Act does not allow for electronic transmission of results.

She also stated that if the political parties wanted the law amended, they should have done so, instead of “disingenuously” and opportunistically blaming Zec for the electoral mishaps which plagued the country’s general elections.

Chigumba said there were complaints that the Zec website malfunctioned, which was not true, noting that this created unnecessary conflicts.

She said Zec is consulting the Sadc Electoral Forum and other regional electoral bodies to address the lack of trust within elections’ stakeholders as well as to improve the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.

Asked whether she thinks the army killed the civilians, Chigumba said she only learnt of what was happening from the media.

“…I wasn’t there…yes the media said the army killed, people were shot from the back…,” she said.

Chigumba revealed that most of the results for Harare province came last, as there were a lot of verifications needed before their announcement.

The Zec boss said the electoral body has compiled a post-mortem of the elections and a draft report is ready containing recommendations on how to improve the
conducting of polls in Zimbabwe in future.

Asked whether as Zec they would be willing to recommend that presidential election results be announced as they come, constituency by constituency or ward by ward, Chigumba said the duty of Zec is purely to administer the laws regarding elections.

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