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Washington demands release of commission of inquiry findings

THE United States embassy has urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to publish findings of the commission of inquiry into the August 1 killings for the sake of transparency, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.

Nyasha Chingono

US ambassador Brian Nichols

This comes after presidential spokesperson George Charamba this week told the state media that the commission of inquiry report was for Mnangagwa’s eyes only and he was not obligated to publish the findings. The committee, chaired by former South Africa president Kgalema Motlanthe, submitted its preliminary findings to Mnangagwa last Friday.

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday, US ambassador Brian Nichols said making the findings public would send a message that, in setting up the commission, Mnangagwa was being transparent and well-meaning.

The world is closely following progress on the inquiry into the deadly shootings which took place just 48 hours after a highly contested general election which Mnangagwa won with the thinnest of margins.

The US has particularly said it was monitoring the human rights situation in the country in order to reopen bilateral engagements.

Mnangagwa is desperately seeking to re-engage with Washington after years of a tense stand-off over, among other issues, human rights abuses by Harare.
“I think the commission of inquiry report should be made public and, hopefully, that will be a serious, transparent investigation to see if the government acts upon its recommendation,” Nichols said.

Washington believes that releasing the August 1 killings report would also complement Zimbabwe’s reform agenda.

Praising the 2019 National budget by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, Nichols said Zimbabwe’s political and economic reform programme needed expeditious implementation if the international community is to relax its hard-line stance towards Harare.

“The budget put forward by the Finance minister Ncube is very positive. I know there are some discussions and refinements that are going on, but I think the general framework should go forward. I think we will receive positive consideration from parliament. I know that the minister has just been to New York and he has been meeting with people around the world to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe,” Nichols said.

On Wednesday, state media carried another story which sought to “clarify” the government’s stance on the commission of inquiry. The news article was viewed in some circles as an attempt at firefighting. Charamba made U-turn saying Mnangagwa would honour his promise to release the report.

His initial statement which sparked uproar appeared to contradict Mnangagwa’s pledge to make public the findings of the Motlanthe-led commission.

“Everything must be transparent. This (the shootings) happened in the glare of the international media, we would want the investigations again to be done in the same manner and the report to be produced and published,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying after appointing the commission.

Mnangagwa vowed that he would not deal with the report in secret.

“The culprits to be dealt with, we do not want to deal with it privately as you are suggesting,” Mnangagwa said.

Charamba’s statements came at a time the commission of inquiry has already come under the spotlight, with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights highlighting that a number of people who were willing to testify before the body were barred for frivolous reasons.

Mnangagwa’s government has sought to tap into the international goodwill since the toppling of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in November last year.

Mnangagwa’s efforts to normalise relations with the international community went up in smoke when marauding soldiers killed six civilians on August 1.

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