IT is easy, if not justifiable, to dismiss the inquiry into the August 1 fatal shootings as a shameless waste. Here is a probe into an atrocity, which was captured live on TV as soldiers sprayed live ammunition at fleeing civilians killing seven and wounding many in the process.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Mthulisi Mathuthu
In the public mind, there is no question: soldiers committed the crime on orders from the top.
Why, people ask, should the taxpayer finance an investigation into a carnage whose perpetrators are known to everybody including school kids?
Inevitably, many are convinced that the commission, led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, is a waste of both public funds and time.
And yet there are many unintended ways in which the so far spectacular public hearing is of benefit to the yet seemingly elusive quest for a better Zimbabwe: here is a perfect and timely public scan of the rotten anatomy of the Zimbabwean state.
Never, in the history of Zimbabwe, have witnesses exposed the inner rottenness of the Zanu PF system before a public commission, journalists and foreign diplomats to that extent.
Never, before, have the army generals been publicly grilled by civilians forcing them to make laughable claims and excuses.
While at face value these are just mere events, they, in actual reality, are milestones. Talk of robbers up a river without a paddle.
Under Robert Mugabe’s rule, obfuscation systems seemed to function well for Zanu PF.
For over 30 years, core specifics of state terrorism and the extent of unprofessionalism were elusive; they remained perceptions and / or speculation.
One needed constant effort to see through deceit; many weren’t capacitated to.
But, thanks to the commission, supposed perceptions and speculation have become confirmed facts; an embarrassing reality.
For example, we now know for a fact that braggadocio, unprofessionalism and lack of sophistication runs through the entire state security apparatus’s DNA. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can now see that.
It used to be said that Mugabe promoted dunces to strategic positions to exercise control over them and yet many doubted that.
The defence against that charge, which one heard frequently, was the myth that the likes of General Philip Valerio Sibanda were intelligent and professional soldiers; all this said without evidence.
Thanks to the commission, this myth crumbled before all and sundry as the generals exposed the inner workings of Defence House with Sibanda coming the most appalling a cropper.
As the generals, led by Sibanda, struggled to present their porous case before the commission, one felt that there was no culture of research at Defence House; only zero respect for facts, let alone audiences.
For the first time the world came face to face with the crudeness and rottenness of the system and heard it all from the horse’s mouth.
This is not limited to Defence House; rather it is a widespread problem-emblematic of the entire system’s sorry condition.
A whole range of people and teams running state departments are an incompetent and obtuse lot surviving on perceptions of excellence.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, despite having been once the country’s spy number one, has exposed the inner bowels of the system by appointing a commission giving the international community access to useful clues.
Critical intelligence has never come this cheap. Now the whole world has it, and on good authority, that Mnangagwa is not skilled at statecraft; that his administration is run by hollow men who brazenly ride roughshod over laid-down procedures.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, as Jim Kunaka put it, is indeed not a national army, but a Zanu PF military wing funded by the state.
Last year, Brian Kagoro tried to alert people to the real meaning of the coup.
He insisted that it was wrong and dangerous for the soldiers to oust an elected president just to propel themselves into political office.
Many, including prominent human rights lawyers, rebuked him, saying General Constantino Chiwenga and his crew had the right to political office without giving thought to the method they had used to secure their right.
Now, on reflection, and thanks to the commission, it is clear the army is at the centre of the Zimbabwe crisis.
By denying that the army killed people on August 1, the generals have given the international community the opportunity to ask deeper questions.
If the generals could deny that the army shot people dead and yet the evidence was captured live by international journalists, what more are they hiding?
Isn’t it time to investigate Gukurahundi genocide?
Without a doubt, Gukurahundi is no longer a grievance; it is no longer a past Matabeleland “disturbance”; rather it is now a fact; a clear and present problem.
Nothing confirms that more than the fact that the likes of Kunaka and Paddington Japajapa are now articulating the fate of the Gukurahundi victims as they did before the commission.
Not so long ago, Kunaka and Japajapa were the kind of people who would have denied that the 1980s carnage ever took place.
A month ago, when the commissioners went to gather evidence in Bulawayo where violence erupted, we all got miffed wondering why Motlanthe and his team were ever in Matabeleland. And yet, on reflection, that was a milestone too.
Here is an incident that revealed the deep anger which has accumulated for ages, but was all along ignored by the international community.
Here, too, was an event that confirmed the Zanu PF system’s brazenness and lack of respect as the police seized innocent people in full view of the commissioners.
That the entire system is a hive of villainy and scam where ethical conduct is actively discouraged is no longer in doubt.
The culture of blaming innocent people for soldiers’ crimes was cultivated by Mnangagwa during his days as the CIO minister in the 1980s under the tutelage of ex-Rhodesian spies who were being handled by apartheid South Africa.
On many occasions, he appeared on TV alongside the likes of the late Enos Nkala and Eddison Zvobgo parading innocent herd boys who had been tortured into admitting that they were dissidents while the army was killing civilians in the villages.
It is no wonder that the same strategy is at work today.
How good and pleasant it is that the whole world can now see through this deception!
Mthulisi Mathuthu is a UK-based journalist and researcher. He is currently investigating media framing of Chinese presence in Africa.