The death of at least six people who were shot and killed in cold blood by Zimbabwe’s military forces on the streets of Harare last Wednesday was the biggest blight on the country’s controversial election.
Instead of providing leadership and taking charge to assure a terrified and shocked nation, the president-elect, Emmerson Mnangagwa, left the country dumbfounded by insinuating that he is not in control of the army and or the police.
When he was asked about the deployment of soldiers on the streets, Mnangagwa, who was addressing a press conference at State House, said he did not know what happened. He promised to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate after his inauguration.
A few moments before making this baffling statement on the deployment of the army, Mnangagwa had also posted on his official Twitter account his reaction to another scandalous conduct by the country’s police force.
Armed riot police had stormed a hotel where MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa was due to address a press conference. They roughed up the media, including hordes of international journalists while kicking them out of the venue. They said they had orders to do so from their superiors.
Mnangagwa’s reaction was again that he did not know what was happening and that he would launch an investigation. He said: “The scenes today at the Bronte Hotel have no place in our society and we are urgently investigating the matter to understand exactly what happened.”
What boggles the mind is the realisation that we have a president who is clearly not in control of the country’s defence forces and the police. What Mnangagwa has shown by his reaction to the death of citizens who were shot dead (mostly in the back) by uniformed soldiers in broad daylight is that unknown persons are now in charge of our national army.
Section 213 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe clearly states that “…only the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, has power” to deploy the Defence Forces “(a) in defence of Zimbabwe or (b) in support of the Police Service in the maintenance of public order…”
Instead of promising some future setting-up of a commission of inquiry to investigate this grave matter, Mnangagwa should have provided leadership, assurance and confidence to the nation by immediately taking action against the commanders of the army units (s) that we saw on the streets of Harare on Wednesday.
Even as he spoke, and later that Friday night, armed soldiers were beating up civilians and causing chaos in residential areas around Harare — imposing undeclared curfew. And Mnangagwa is telling the nation he does not know what is happening and needs to set up a commission of inquiry to find out!
Mnangagwa is the commander-in-chief of the defence forces and is responsible for the actions of the army and the police. Ignorance and / or intention to institute investigations are no excuse for loss of lives. We have ministers of Defence and Home Affairs who report directly to Mnangagwa and in our view, heads should have rolled instead of the president groping for dumb excuses.