George Orwell’s observation that “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” has found practical expression in Zimbabwe, a country of boundless potential but which is fast descending into a frighteningly dystopian society.
Candid Comment Brezhnev Malaba
“They killed him like a dog!” These are the heart-rending words of Alaison Charles, whose brother Gavin is one of seven unarmed civilians who were murdered in cold blood by rampaging soldiers on the streets of Harare on August 1.
The bereaved families have not received a cent from the government in compensation. How will they feel when they wake up to the news that a glorified “commission of inquiry” will gobble up huge amounts of taxpayer money and the distinguished commissioners will make a killing (the grotesque pun is inevitable). Profiting from death, in other words.
How heartless can you get?
This is how the political commentator Dinizulu Mbiko Macaphulana summed it up: “The victims are under investigation and the perpetrators are witnesses.
In short, the commission is tasked to come up with an explanation as to why the army killed the civilians and not uncover the criminals that instructed those soldiers.”
Tell me, who will fend for Gavin’s 13-year-old daughter? How do you console a child whose father has been mowed down by the brutal fire of state-sponsored murderers?
An inquiry must be impartial, autonomous and independent. How does a commission packed with conflicted individuals measure up to those standards? Do you even need such an inquiry in the first place?
There is no legal obligation on Emmerson Mnangagwa to make the findings public—let alone implement the recommendations of the inquiry. His decision to institute a probe of this type was not informed by legal considerations, otherwise he would have seen to it by now that the killers are brought to justice. His was a political calculation, a move on the chessboard.
Commissions of inquiry are expensive, their recommendations are not legally enforceable and in the end nobody is held accountable. Any objective person scrutinising the terms of reference can reach one conclusion: the probe is meant to attribute blame to the opposition while allowing the usual suspects to literally get away with murder.
But it is a terrible miscalculation. Unlike the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide — whose catastrophic crimes the British government connived in concealing to the world — the August 1 murders happened in the full glare of local and international media cameras. There is more than enough evidence to secure the swift conviction of the killers and those who deployed them.
The findings of the Gukurahundi inquiry have not been made public, decades later. What Zimbabwe needs is not another useless inquiry; what is needed is a return to constitutionality. The genocide was masterminded by the same men who now rule Zimbabwe.
The video of a deranged soldier kneeling to take aim and open fire on fleeing civilians is not a vision of the future envisaged by Zimbabweans when they excitedly jostled to take selfies atop military tanks during the November coup.