Chamisa in climbdown

HARARE - MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is now amenable to appearing before a Commission of Inquiry investigating the post-election violence that killed at least six people in central Harare on August 1, the Daily News can report.

But before he could face the seven-member Commission, the MDC leader wants the panel to clarify a number of issues to enable him to make an informed decision.
On November 14, the Commission had written to Chamisa inviting him to appear before it at its next sitting tomorrow.

Chamisa had previously gone on record, refusing to appear before the commission, saying President Emmerson Mnangagwa could not appoint a Commission to inquire into his own conduct as he was responsible for the deployment of the defence forces — according to the Constitution.

But in a letter to Commission chair, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, dated November 16, 2018, Chamisa makes a volte-face, saying notwithstanding his misgivings he “would like to take your invitation seriously and give it the due weight it deserves”.

“I note, in particular, that the basis of the invitation appears to emanate from testimony and allegation made by a witness to the effect that I incited violence. I consider the allegation to be malicious. Since my response to this contrived allegation is required, I consider it ‘fair and just’ that I should be afforded all the relevant information relating to the allegations so as to enable me to prepare adequately,” he wrote.

“I kindly therefore ask the Commission to favour me with the full transcript of the relevant part of the testimony; to better understand the nature, circumstances, scope and credibility of the allegations made against me. This would enable me to form an informed opinion regarding the invitation.

“Further, and in the interest of due process and my natural and constitutional rights, would I stand assured that an opportunity to cross-examine the witness who ‘mentioned (my name) as among those who played a part in inciting the violence of 1 August 2018’ will be availed, since the sole basis of my invitation is his, her or their testimony?,” said Chamisa.

Chamisa said it was pertinent for the Commission to note that during the material time, Mnangagwa was the sole authority charged with the responsibility of the security of all citizens in terms of the Constitution.

“He therefore is the key witness in this matter,” he said, adding that since the Commission was set up by his political competitor, the Commission must put in place mechanisms to guard against possible abuse of the process to persecute and maliciously nail him and the party he leads.

“Honourable chairman, in my view, the real issue is about the killing of innocent, unarmed and fleeing civilians; most of them shot in the back and whether or not this was justified?

“Honourable chairman, there is in this country an unfortunate and terrible history of malicious persecution of the alternative voices and selective application of the law on the basis of one’s political affiliation.

“This is a major cause of the erosion of public confidence in institutions of law enforcement, inquiry and justice. In the interests of fairness and equal application of the law, I would be most grateful if you could confirm that all persons who have been cited by witnesses, including, Mr Mnangagwa, have been or will also be called to testify before the Commission. I ask because the basis of my invitation is merely that my name was mentioned by an untested witness.

“I understand that the Commission considered it ‘fair and just’ to invite me and likewise, I hope the Commission appreciates why my requests are reasonable, fair and just,” he wrote.

Chamisa’s climb-down comes days after Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, had told the Daily News that the MDC leader risked suffering serious consequences if he did not appear before the Commission, as it had powers similar to those of the country’s courts.

According to Section 10 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the probe team has the same power as a magistrates’ court to summon witnesses and examine them under oath, and to require witnesses to produce documents in evidence.

Witnesses who fail or refuse to attend after being summoned, or who give false evidence on oath, may be prosecuted.

Despite widely published photographs and video footage showing the Zimbabwean army soldiers firing on people in Harare’s streets, senior military commanders last week flatly denied before the Commission that their men were responsible for the shooting of six people in Harare.

Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, commander of the elite presidential guard, told the public hearing “if any gunshot wounds were sustained by the victims, it was not from my men. All those were shot before we deployed and this is true because we never came across a dead body”.

Sanyatwe said troops had fired warning shots as they were trained to do.

The commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Philip Valerio Sibanda, told the inquiry that a kneeling soldier captured on a video that has gone viral on social media discharging his firearm, was firing warning shots.

The senior officers’ testimonies fly in the face of witness accounts and do not match the recollection of many witnesses to the violence, which followed scattered confrontations between police and protesters from the MDC angered by alleged electoral fraud.

This escalated resentment towards the Commission amid suspicion it’s condoning the institutionalised cover-up of the shootings by the army.

Comments (7)

Even a non-ballistic expert, non-mathematician, non-physicist can see that, that was not at 45degrees ...a spade must be called a spade.

Den - 20 November 2018

It's the right thing to do. Nothing to hide. Next ED, then general Bleach McBleachface

Moe Syszlack - 20 November 2018

I wish Chamisa was Obert Mpofu. He was simply going to tell them to go and hang and these Charambas would put their tails between their legs and zip their mouths

Sizwe ka Nare - 20 November 2018

It will be a travesity of justice if the sole authority mandated with the deployment of the military does not appear before the Commission

Sinyo - 21 November 2018

Illiteracy and semi-literacy are the cause of all our problems in Zimbabwe. Clearly, Mr Chamisa and his supporters did not understand the terms of reference of the Commission of inquiry. This is the major cause of failures in examinations - failure to understand the question, and, or, rephrasing the question so that someone can write something. The Commission of Inquiry's overall ToR is to establish the events leading to the shooting of the people. The shooting of the people by whoever, was not an isolated event as some people choose to conveniently think. Mature analysts and Researchers always ask the Why of Why! If we are not careful, we are likely to have another Gukurahundi scenario here, where no one can explain what really caused the sad episode! In as much as Commissions of Inquiry can allow for cross-examination of witnesses, this is not yet the time. Mr Chamisa should just give his side of the story! It's crazy that we as a nation do not learn from others. Check the Zondo Commission on State Capture in SA - people are currently simply giving their own evidence and there is no cross examination yet. A Commission of Inquiry is not a Court of Law, by the way! For some of us who did not witness anything except images and counter-accusations, we would love to hear the full story in terms of the first scene up to the last scene where people were shot!

Mhofu Chaiyo - 21 November 2018

mhofu i wonder if the inquiry is solely about the events that led to the shootings alone...lets put aside the events that led to the shooting whatsoever....why wont we first ask who did the shootings? then probably ask them why they did the shootings? its awkward that much energy is directed towards the so called inciters of violence and everything about the shootings is laid aside...isnt that question is are we more concerned about why people demonstrated or the fact that unarmed civilins were shot whilst running for their dear lives.......? lets not try and sway the truths by our shallow theoretical narratives...

tinoe - 22 November 2018

It is myopic to think that the commission is not a court when we clearly see that it is hearing a case by summonses, whether civil or criminal. That thinking is tantamount to thinking that community courts are not courts. In any case the results of the inquiry will lead to conviction of any guilty persons or appeals being made to other courts as in any other kind of court system. Let's also not be shortsighted about what the commission must focus on. What does it mean to say you want to know who shot people but you wish to put aside the events that caused the shootings? That is bigotry of the highest order. Because yes, you want the court to hear the obvious - that the people were gunned down by gunners. You don't want to concern yourself with anything else, even the question of who were shot. The moment you ask who was shot you already are asking about the events that led to the shooting. And therefore I submit that the commission must summon whosoever they deem, and ask whatsoever must be asked without fear or favour. No sacred cows. No emotional curtaining.

Tonde Manginde - 26 November 2018

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