Army nailed

HARARE - Some of the witnesses who testified before the Commission of Inquiry into the politically-motivated violence which rocked central Harare on August 1 threw the military under the proverbial bus yesterday by linking it to the deaths of at least six unarmed civilians on the fateful day.

First to take to the witness stand was Thokozani Maphosa, husband of the late Sylvia Maphosa, who gave a heart-wrenching account of how authorities tried to conceal details of the instrument that killed his wife.

Sylvia’s life was cut short at the age of 53 when she was shot in the back as she tried to flee from danger.

She was laid to rest on August 5 at Zororo Memorial Park, just outside Chitungwiza.

According to her husband, when they went to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals to inquire about her death, they were told that she had died of stab wounds, which was not consistent with the wounds inflicted on her body.

They queried that conclusion.

“I want to know who killed my wife,” said Maphosa, who only learnt of her death from his daughter who is based in South Korea.

Next to take to the witness stand was outspoken activist Paddington Japajapa.

He literally dragged government into the mud by painting a picture of a regime that thrives on silencing dissenting voices.

Japajapa, who was accredited as an election observer during the hotly-disputed July 30 polls, laid the blame squarely on the military.

On the fateful day, Japajapa said he heard gunshots coming from the direction of Fourth Street while seated in his parked vehicle in central Harare.

Within a few minutes, he saw an army truck full of soldiers cruising towards the MDC headquarters along Nelson Mandela Street.

He said four soldiers jumped from the truck — a few metres from the MDC head office — and three of them started firing randomly using AK 47 automatic weapons.

“I started my vehicle, which was clearly branded ‘election observer’ and I was in my election observer kit ... so I followed the army (truck) which was about 50 metres
away and soldiers were shooting at people who were walking in the streets and one of the soldiers was kneeling, pointing his gun which was at 180 degrees, at that point he will be pointing at the waist or above the waist.

“One of the officers was commanding them to continue shooting and there was one police officer who was in riot gear who was also in front. When we were near the intersection of Nelson Mandela and Angwa Street, there was a body lying in a pool of blood, he had been shot, the army just passed by and did not bother to look at the person who had been shot,” said Japajapa.

In graphic detail, the former football administrator said he saw three bodies “with another man with intestines hanging from his body crawling along the pavements”.
“He was crying for help, and no one assisted him,” said Japajapa.

He narrated seeing soldiers who were brandishing firearms combing the streets of Harare when death hung in the air and saw another man who had been shot dead at Copacabana Bus Terminus.

“When I was about to take pictures, one of the soldiers said to me if you do that we will also shoot at you and I switched off my phone,” he said.

All in all, he said he saw five bodies, including a dreadlocked man who had been shot by a police officer manning the Zanu PF provincial headquarters.

During the demonstrations, protesters stormed the Zanu PF headquarters, before tearing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s posters and targeting vehicles belonging to the ruling party.

Japajapa said despite the intimidating atmosphere, he continued going around town in the unease sanctuary of his vehicle which was marked “Elections Observer”.

“There was no reason for me to be afraid. Soldiers were all over beating people, anybody whom they came across, with sjamboks and sticks, this was one of the worst barbaric acts I have ever seen in my life which was perpetrated by members of the army, it was ungodly and it is very cruel for them to say they never killed anybody.
They killed people, all in all they killed six people,” said Japapaja.

After witnessing the gory sights of death and what resembled a warzone, Japajapa claimed that he went to the Elections Command Centre and tried to locate the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Priscilla Chigumba to inform her of what had happened.

Instead of meeting Chigumba, Japajapa was told to go and report the shootings he had witnessed to the police.

“By then I couldn’t go back to town because the situation was volatile. I stayed at the command centre,” he said.

When it was pointed to him that the army has a constitutional right to intervene when the situation demands, Japajapa said the army has no role in civilian matters and should have left those matters to be dealt with by the police who could have used tear smoke and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

“The intention was to kill, that is why they deployed the soldiers,” he said.

When he was put under cross-examination, Japajapa said Zanu PF has a history of violence from as far as the 1980s when the government turned on alleged Zapu officials in the Matabeleland region, killing an estimated 20 000 people.

Japajapa also highlighted the beating of former MDC leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai, in 2007 and other incidences of State-sponsored violence.

Also at the inquiry, former Zanu PF youth leader Jim Kunaka spoke emotionally and captivatingly about how he, as a youth leader was used to orchestrate violence against the opposition.

Kunaka, a former Zanu PF Harare province chairperson, recalled how youths were given police uniforms in 2007 to pounce on the late Tsvangirai after a prayer meeting.

A former cadre of the Generation 40 (G40) faction in Zanu PF, Kunaka refused to answer questions from one of the commissioners, Charity Manyeruke, whom he claimed he had worked closely with in Zanu PF and explained how they sat in meetings designed to unleash violence against the opposition.

The live audience which was packed with MDC supporters encouraged Kunaka to “go deeper” and expose all the “dirt” which the former Zanu PF member accused the University of Zimbabwe professor of.

Former Zanu PF Harare South Member of Parliament Shadreck Mashayamombe also took to the stand and narrated how he had been tormented by government following his expulsion from the ruling party.

Mashayamombe, who was affiliated to the G40 faction, said he was abducted before this year’s harmonised elections, alleging he was under attack for contesting in a constituency where Mnangagwa’s nephew, Tongai, was also a candidate.

He wept as he explained how his home was terrorised while he was tied with an electric cable, further alleging that his abductors stole US$50 000 he was keeping in a safe.

MDC president Nelson Chamisa was represented by advocate Thabani Mpofu who did not get the opportunity to testify yesterday.

Speaking to journalists after the hearing session, the party’s spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Chamisa had sent a set of questions before the Commission on areas where he needed clarification.

“He is not afraid to appear before the Commission, he was represented in the room by advocate Mpofu who was sitting the whole day waiting for his turn,” he said.

Mwonzora said everyone who was mentioned by name in the testimonies during the hearings should appear before the Commission.

“It is when things look discriminatory that we start having questions,” he said.

A forensic ballistics expert, Superintendent Tsitsi Paradzai, testified during yesterday’s hearings, giving evidence that AK 47 rifles were used on the day in question.

Appearing before the Kgalema Motlanthe-led probe team over a week ago, military and police commanders denied any of their troops ever fired directly at protesters.

They blamed the deaths on the militant MDC youth group commonly known as the Vanguard as well as some unnamed business operators in central Harare who allegedly fired some rounds in attempts to protect their properties from looters.

The MDC insists those who died were killed by soldiers who were deployed to quell the wild skirmishes.

Comments (9)

Apparently these blood thirsty barbarians have been left to commit many crimes against humanity since 1980 and it seems no-one in the whole world cares about defenseless civilians in Zimbabwe since they are black people. SADC and AU are just talk show groups of like minded cannibals. Zimbabweans have never known peace, harmony and development since UDI.

Kufandada - 22 November 2018

Mashayamombe, Kunaka and Japajapa are not credible witnesses at all. They are just bitter people who were fired from Zanu PF for their nefarious activities. Most of what they said were not in any way relevant to the enquiry. They were waffling and waffling. In Japajapa's own words, he said Chaibva was given time to waffle and talk nonsense, thus, he demanded equal time to waffle and talk nonsense.

Tafara Shumba - 22 November 2018

And u Tafara u are just waffling too the inquiry need that information they should have told him to shut up if they don't need that info u are still defending this old deadwoods in this century where in the world are u living that an army general saying soilders where shooting in to the air on 45 degrees set up if we were all fools like you we could have dead long time ago wake up u can like these deadwoods thieves but not defending them on the naked truth like this one

Innocent - 22 November 2018

My friend, I can rather trust the devil than those three rascals. However, I could have responded to what you have scribbled if you had written in shona or whatever is your mother language. Unfortunately your english is so poor that I failed to understand what you were trying to say. Go to night school before you join these debates

Tafara Shumba - 22 November 2018

Not rocket science on who dunt it it was used as blame game by those in authority

lekle - 22 November 2018

That's where u are a fool trying to correct my English here spare me your lecture you think writing vocabulary words is the way to show that you went to school if you cant understand what I'm saying tough luck but stop defending those ancestors of yours I can't believe you are trying to run away from the truth by trying to correct my English shame on you

Innocent - 22 November 2018

tafara, it is admissible that the said persons could be bitter exes. however their testimonies , having been insiders is a honest reflection of what everyone has always known and knows. the question here is who killed civilians in august 1, 2018? and their contribution to that end is welcome, just like the rest of witnesses..

alternative - 23 November 2018

The Commission has an onorous task on their table for their credibility and most importantly for some desperately needed legitimacy for the sake of moving forward as a country. So the Commission must establish who the demonstrators were and if they indeed overpowered the police then how the army was engaged and what were the orders. So far eye witnesses account and video footage has some serious circumstancial evidence against the military. By admitting that the ARMY commanded their soldiers threw Sanyatwe during the fracas is again another violation of procedure. POSA section 37 clearly states that when ZRP has called for assistance the command of that assistance remains with ZRP as legally ZRP are the only service mandated with maintaining law peace and order in the country. It is important as well for the Commission to be alive to the human rights history of the country hence their surmoning of witnesses like Japajapa

Sinyo - 23 November 2018

Japa Japa is a liar . If he was an observer he should have taken videos and pictures when he followed the soldiers . How on earth did he become an observer ? Please investigate him . He lied under oath . If he was for sure an observer , he has videos and pictures which he is hiding because they will prove that he is telling lies .

Hayibo - 23 November 2018

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