President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s refusal to acknowledge that soldiers who killed seven civilians in cold blood on August 1 overstepped the boundaries raises serious questions about his commitment to end impunity against opponents of the ruling party.
Seven innocent people were shot dead during protests in Harare after soldiers were deployed ostensibly to restore law and order.
Mnangagwa has repeatedly expressed regret about the deaths and pledged to set up an independent commission of inquiry to establish the people behind the killings.
However, the president last week told Heroes Day and Defence Forces Day gatherings that the MDC Alliance was responsible for the deaths because the coalition incited people to take to the streets of Harare to protest against delays in the release of the presidential elections results.
This was despite the fact that the killings were captured as they happened by both local and international journalists. Uniformed soldiers were caught on camera firing live ammunition indiscriminately at fleeing civilians, some of them who were shot on their backs. Footage of the shootings was shared by Zimbabweans on social media.
Over a fortnight after the bloody incident none of those soldiers have been made to account for their barbaric acts while Mnangagwa and his government try to shift the blame to their opponents.
The president has also not said a word about the fresh wave of violence targeting MDC Alliance supporters in the aftermath of the July 30 elections.
A consortium of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) recently documented the violations mainly against people that acted as polling agents for the opposition.
The NGOs have since shared their findings with African diplomats based in Zimbabwe hoping that they will lean on Mnangagwa’s government to rein in the security forces and Zanu PF supporters that are being linked to the violence.
Hundreds of people are said to have fled their homes across their country after receiving death threats.
Some opposition activists in areas such as Mutoko, Mudzi and Muzarabani had their homesteads burnt by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has acknowledged receiving such reports and is in the process of carrying out investigations.
The commission, which must be commended for refusing to see or hear no evil like what most state institutions are wont to do in such circumstances, has also expressed discomfort about the involvement of soldiers in the violence.
Instead of pretending that it is business as usual, Mnangagwa must be taking concrete steps to address the army killings without fear or favour.
It is also the president’s duty to ensure that the political violence that erupted after the elections is brought to an end, moreso that the perpetrators are committing the crimes in his name.
The president has to rise above party politics and reunite a country fractured by years of intolerance and impunity.
Ensuring that no one is above the law, including those serving in the security sector, will be a perfect start for Mnangagwa if he is serious about building a new Zimbabwe.