LAST WEEK, at long last, seven long months after last year’s August 1 killings that claimed at least six lives, President Emmerson Mnangagwa finally admitted he deployed the army on the fateful day.
He also admitted to deploying the army in January, during a three-day stay-away organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, in which more than a dozen unarmed civilians died.
Mnangagwa’s bolt-from-the-blue admission, which came via a notice read out in Parliament by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, really took many by surprise because speculation at the time of the killings wrongly suggested the deployments had been ordered by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.
Interestingly, despite the fact that the general public was wrongly accusing his deputy of illegally deploying the army onto the streets of Harare to suppress post-election demonstrations, Mnangagwa never set the record straight. Instead, he set up a Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 post-election violence.
The assumption at the time was that Mnangagwa set up the inquiry in a bid to provide answers to at least two questions that were on everybody’s lips: Who ordered the army onto the streets of Harare to deal with the violent demonstrations and who pulled the trigger on defenceless civilians?
The president was even praised in some quarters for making the undertaking “to address the matter in a transparent manner and in the public interest.” Even when the expensively-assembled seven-member (Kgalema) Motlanthe commission submitted its report, Mnangagwa had remained mum on the findings, only for him to own up last week and after great expense to the taxpayer.
The admission that he deployed the army on the two occasions was a big anti-climax and has exposed the president’s lack of sincerity.
This is not surprising given Mnangagwa’s apparent unwillingness to take on board most of the recommendations proffered by the Motlanthe Commission.
If indeed the president is really determined to win over the skeptical Western world including the Americans, who recently extended sanctions against Zimbabwe, he has to show more commitment to transparency. Mnangagwa should never for a moment fool himself into believing that the international community will be charmed by mere words and a string of empty promises.
Our government should demonstrate its commitment to creating a genuine, democratic post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.