ZANU PF secretary for administration and former Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu yesterday told the commission of inquiry investigating the post-election violence of August 1 that the soldiers who allegedly shot and killed six civilians in the capital were deployed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Testifying before the commission, which is chaired by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Mpofu also claimed that opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa had personally admitted to him in a telephone call that he had lost the presidential election, and suggested that unknown “elements” had planted snipers in Harare’s central business district to kill civilians in a bid to tarnish the government.
He said he had recorded his telephone conversation with Chamisa and promised to avail the recording, which he said would expose Chamisa for lying to the commission.
Mpofu, one of the Zanu PF old guard who were shifted to the party head office when Mnangagwa named his Cabinet after the elections, said he had observed the build-up of the demonstrations from the Zanu PF headquarters, which he referred to as the “citadel of power”.
The protestors, he said, seemed sober, but as the demonstration went on, they turned violent, leading to the police requesting for military back-up.
He said all the legal elements were complied with, adding Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga wrote to him as the Home Affairs minister and he, in turn, wrote to the Defence minister, who then requested the President to authorise the deployment.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga was Defence minister then.
“We sought permission, I wrote to my counterpart, my colleague, about what we were requesting and that process went up to the principal, and a report back was given by government to pursue with what the police had requested, and that was done. I think there is a record trail to that effect,” he said, adding he was involved in the process and feedback was sent to him, which he relayed to the Police Commissioner-General.
He said in the build-up to elections, he tried to encourage a spirit of peace, but some opposition leaders had engaged in inflammatory language.
Mpofu, who was cheered up by Zanu PF supporters, now constitutes part of the pro-government witnesses who have thrown in several conspiracy theories into the circumstances around the August 1 shootings.
He alleges there were snipers planted on tall buildings around town, with the sole aim of shooting civilians in a bid to soil government’s credibility and cause internal disturbances.
Mpofu said accusations that Zanu PF was involved in the violence were misplaced, because there was no reason to demonstrate, particularly in Harare, where Zanu PF has already accepted the opposition’s dominance.
“This was predetermined action, which was clearly planned,” he said.
“Why, after 38 years, will we start shooting at our people, especially when the results are being counted? I was the chairman of [the Joint Operation Command] and the message at every meeting was that these elections should be peaceful, and (that there) shouldn’t be any loss of blood.”
Mpofu said if Zanu PF had wanted to hit back, “the perpetrators would have learnt a lesson and would never do a similar thing in their lives.”
He said he spoke to Chamisa once on the day in question, reasoning with him to stop the protests and that Chamisa said he was going to enquire and come back to him.
Chamisa never called back, Mpofu said.
Motlanthe, however, pleaded with Mpofu to use his influence to nudge the police into giving useful details, citing an example where injured people who drove a bullet-riddled vehicle to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals gave chilling details of the account of them dumping a dead body, but claimed he had not taken registration details of the vehicle.
Meanwhile, another witness, Pure Simango, gave an account of how he was shot by the suspected soldiers on the thigh.
He said he witnessed someone dying from another shot as he was fleeing.