OPPOSITION leader Nelson Chamisa and his deputy party chair Tendai Biti, yesterday distanced their party from involvement in the fatal post-election protests which rocked Harare on August 1, telling the commission of inquiry instead that Zanu PF and the military connived to foment chaos and shoot innocent civilians as part of a grand scheme to retain power “after losing the presidential race” in the July 30 poll.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday giving evidence on the post-election violence on August 1, 2018 before a commission of inquiry
Appearing before the commission into the shootings chaired by former South African President, Kgalema Motlanthe, the MDC officials, who were accused of fanning the violence which led members of the military to allegedly kill six civilians, set out a new narrative.
Chamisa said the August 1 shootings and violence were carried out by some elements in Zanu PF in collusion with the military after it became clear that they had lost the elections and were aware of the intention to cook results.
“August 1 is a very sad day in the history of our country; very regrettable for me, but the way I see it, it was a pre-emptive measure to avert what they expected to be a response from those whom they had robbed of electoral victory. It was what I would call a managed explosion… calculated to forestall any kind of protests, especially in the context of results that would be doctored or not real. It was designed to be the platform for the release of fake results and justify a putative attack on innocent citizens,” he said.
Chamisa’s testimony follows that of Presidential Guard commander Brigadier-General Anselem Nhamo Sanyatwe, who few weeks ago told the commission that a national reactional force (NRF) was set up on July 10 ahead of the elections amid intelligence that the MDC had plans to destabilise the country.
The NRF unleased 62 soldiers, armed with AK-47 assault rifles who allegedly shot at protestors, killing six and injuring 24. A seventh civilian died in a stampede that followed the shootings.
Distancing his party from being the architects of the violent protests, which were allegedly led by militants, according to the army and police testimony, Chamisa said he had ‘won’ the polls and had no reason to demonstrate, saying Zanu PF knew they had lost and had printed fresh ballots with the hope of pushing for another election.
“We had won the election; we had bagged it and there was no need for us under those circumstances to do anything that would then cause unnecessary challenges in the context of our country… there were 4 million ballot papers that were printed after July 30 and that can be validated … they were being printed because wrong results were going to be announced, Zec’s figures could not tally,” he said.
Basking in the glare and support of MDC parliamentarians, who thronged the hearing, clapping and ululating as he spoke eloquently, Chamisa declared his innocence saying his party was a democratic and law-abiding institution, and that his hands were clean.
“My resolve is unbreakable and my heart is pure, these hands you see have not spilled blood, these are clean hands, the mouth you see here has never conspired to have a life that is lost on the basis of political violence. We will not walk to State House in the blood of the innocent. The paradox is that the allegations are being made by those whose hands are unclean,” he said.
Police were deployed at the MDC headquarters way ahead of the elections with anti-riot water cannons taking residence at Harvest House, a fact which Sanyatwe in his evidence alluded to, but described it as pre-emptive measure because they had credible intelligence that MDC was planning to unleash violence. Chamisa, however, said these were red flags pointing towards August 1.
“In the context of August 1, this was a plan that was done well ahead by the deployment of water cannons at Harvest House on July 28, on a Saturday. Why would you deploy tanks at Harvest House and not at Zanu PF headquarters? These are both political parties that are in an election but you have already deployed against one and have already worked on a presumption that there is going to be a demonstration that is going to come or emanate from one party and not the other,” he said.
Chamisa said even the manner in which results were announced suggested a grand plan of master-minding electoral grand theft.
“When there was this violence on the August 1, certain people attempted to convince the relatives of the deceased that let the cause of death be stab wounds instead of gunshot wounds. Why was the election result announced at night? Why were the election results announced when (the army had cleared people) from the (CBD)?” he questioned
Chamisa said he did not mobilise or give instructions to demonstrate.
“We did not give any instruction to demonstrate on the first of August. When we make decisions to demonstrate we are an organised party with organs and structures, we don’t just wake up and say go and demonstrate, they have to be meetings… we have demonstrated before and we are going to demonstrate again as we are going to demonstrate on November 29,”
He accused witnesses from State institutions of lying under oath saying they were drivers of national decadency.
“For a nation to thrive, dishonesty must die, deception must cease and tomfoolery must vanish. Such is the case in our circumstances and no nation will survive on the foundation of falsehoods, deceit and deception, I have had opportunity to take a look at some of the testimonies given under oath. People are lying about things that happened in broad daylight,” said Chamisa.
Chamisa told the commission that the MDC, in its 19 years of existence had never used guns and did not have an army and called out the military for concocting lies.
Pushing back on allegations that his party set the ground stage for conflict and violence by arming a military wing in the MDC called the Vanguard, Chamisa said he contested in the polls because he thought that there was a vacancy to become commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces and not the Vanguard.
The MDC national vice-chairperson, Tendai Biti took the commission on a history of state-sponsored violence, arguing that the military has been used by governments from the time of Ian Smith to present day to maintain a grip on political power.
The Gukurahindi massacres in the 1980s were one such occasion, as were the murder of hundreds of MDC supporters.
He asked why Mnangagwa appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the deaths of seven people, and yet was ignoring the murder of 20 000 people during Gukurahundi by members of the military, whose commanders he said were in the presidency.
“We were very colourful during the elections but we did not cross the line,” said Biti, adding that he feared that Mnangagwa wanted to use the commission’s findings to suppress opposition politics.