Zimbabwe held its national elections on the 30th of July 2018. The electoral process was generally peaceful until the 1st of August 2018, when many demonstrators took to the streets of Harare demanding the immediate release of the election results. These events, particularly those that occurred within Harare’s Central Business District (CBD), resulted in the death of six (6) people, injury of thirty-five (35), and massive damage to properties.
Following these incidents, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, appointed a Commission of Inquiry in terms of section 2(1) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act [Chapter 10:07] through Proclamation Number 6 of 2018 published in Statutory Instrument 181 of 2018, with specific Terms of Reference contained therein.
Through this promulgation, the President appointed a team of Commissioners comprising of: His Excellency Kgalema Motlanthe (Former President of the Republic of South Africa), who chaired the Commission; Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Federal Republic of Nigeria); Rodney Dixon QC (United Kingdom); General Davis Mwamunyange (Former Chief of Tanzania People’s Defence Forces); Professor Charity Manyeruke (Political Science, University of Zimbabwe); Professor Lovemore Madhuku (Faculty of Law, University of Zimbabwe); and Mrs. Vimbai Nyemba (Former President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe).
The Commission adopted a multi-pronged methodology for making its inquiries and findings as well as recommendations about the tragic events. The methods included obtaining written affidavits, verbal testimonies at public hearings, conducting inspections in loco and examining video footage from credible national and international media sources.
For over two and half months, commencing from September 2018, the Commission visited Mutare, Gweru, Bulawayo and Harare CBD to conduct its inquiry. Hundreds of Zimbabweans participated in the exercise in a free, open and safe atmosphere. From these interactions, the Commission has fulfilled its mandate within the stipulated time.
The Commission considered evidence from various witnesses across the political divide and the generality of the populace and made several findings. However, these findings were made against the background that police investigations relating to some of the cases cited during the Commission’s hearings are yet to be finalised. Nevertheless, the Commission was satisfied that the substantial evidence it had received during its fact-finding mission, was sufficient for it to make key findings under various themes.
The crucial findings are that:
a. The demonstrations which became property and injury had been incited, Alliance; riotous and caused extensive damage to pre-planned and well-organised by the MDC
b. The particular circumstances prevailing on the day justified the deployment of the military to assist the police in containing the riots; and
c. Six (6) people died and thirty-five (35) were injured as a result of actions by the military and the police.
The evidence showed that the Government deployed the military in accordance with the Constitution and the applicable law. The Commission also considered that whilst the deployment of the military was lawful, the operational framework in terms of Section 37 (2) of Public Order and Security Act [Chapter 1 1 :0 7 ] was not fully complied with in that the deployed troops were not placed under the command of the Harare Regulating Authority.
The Commission made several recommendations. Some of the key ones concern:
a. Payment through a special Committee to be set up by the Government, of compensation for losses and damages caused including in particular, support and school fees for the children of the deceased;
b. Promotion of political tolerance, and responsible and accountable leadership and citizenry;
c. Electoral reforms including the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT), to among other things enhance the transparent and expeditious announcement of election results;
d. The enforcement of law and order in order to ensure that the events of the 1st of August 2018 are not repeated;
e. Accountability in respect of the alleged perpetrators; and
f. Nation building and reconciliation including an initiative for multi-party dialogue and cooperation.
The testimonies and submissions that the Commission received indicated that the scope and consequences of the violence that occurred on the 1st of August 2018 were regarded as unprecedented in the history of Zimbabwean elections. The appointment and composition of the Commission of Inquiry, with a majority of international members, confirms President Mnangagwa‘s determination to ensure a non-repetition of such an unwholesome national experience in future.
From the testimonies of the witnesses who appeared before the Commission, it was noted that there is at present a very worrisome degree of polarisation and bitterness within the body politic of Zimbabwe. In this regard, the Commission commends the continuing statements by the President of the Republic calling for reconciliation, healing and unity among the citizenry. We urge all the people of Zimbabwe to respond positively to the President’s appeals and, at the same time, the Government to reinforce these appeals with inclusive policies.
From our wide ranging fact-finding experience in Zimbabwe, we believe that President Mnangagwa is determined to open a new chapter in the policies and activities of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, including the restoration of the country’s diplomatic and commercial relations with the international community.
Terms of Reference:
a. To inquire into the circumstances leading to the 1st of August, 2018 post-election violence;
b. To identify the actors and their leaders, their motive and strategies employed in the protests;
c. To inquire into the intervention by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in the maintenance of law and order;
d. To investigate the circumstances which necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order;
e. To consider whether the degree of force used was proportionate to the ensuing threat to public safety, law and order;
f. To ascertain extent of damage/injury caused thereof;
g. To investigate into any other matter which the Commission of Inquiry may deem appropriate and relevant to the inquiry;
h. To make suitable recommendations; and
i. To report to the President in writing, the result of the inquiry within a period of three months from the date of swearing in of the Commissioners.
Following the promulgation by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency E.D. Mnangagwa, of Proclamation 6 of 20181, the President swore in a seven-member Commission of Inquiry in terms Section 2 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act [Chapter 10:07], on the 19th of September 2018.
Inspections in loco
The Commission conducted inspections in loco in Harare including the under listed places:
a. Zanu PF Provincial Headquarters;
b. Herald House;
c. TV Sales and Home;
d. Bakers Inn;
e. Edgars First Street;
f. Ximex Mall;
g. Corner Inez Terrace and Kenneth Kaunda Avenue;
h. VJ Wholesalers (Rezende Street/Charter Street);
i. Hub Saleview Investments;
j. Unique Fashions and Medex Press Pharmacy (Harare Street/Albion);
k. Zanu PF National Headquarters;
l. HICC (National Elections Command Centre);
m. ZEC Head Offices;
n. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions offices at Gorlon House; and
o. Harvest House, the MDC Alliance Headquarters.
These places were all referenced by different witnesses as locations where incidents relevant to the inquiry had occurred.
1.7 Written Submissions
The Commission received written submissions from individuals and organisations. Most written statements from individuals were in the form of affidavit (See Annexure 3). Several organisations responded to the Commission’s request and submitted their written submissions (See Annexure 4).
1.8 Post mortem reports
The Commission received post mortem reports of the six (6) deceased persons. The Commission also received x-ray images and medical reports in respect of some injured persons.
1.9. Ballistics report
The Commission received and considered a report from the Police Ballistics expert (See Annexure 5).
1.10. Public reports
The Commission considered thirteen (13) observer mission election reports. The Commission also considered a range of documents relevant to its work.
1.11. Media reports including social media
The Commission considered media reports as well as articles from social media to advance its work.
1.12. The Commission’s approach to the hearings
The Commission adopted a very flexible and open approach to receiving evidence. The Commission Chairman consistently invited members of the public to take the witness stand and give evidence in addition to the scheduled witnesses. No evidence was heard in camera. The Commission regarded the media as a partner in informing the public of its work and all hearings were broadcast to the public.
The Commission did not permit the cross examination of witnesses. However, the Commissioners asked witnesses clarity-seeking questions. The key principle followed was that all witnesses could give their evidence with the full knowledge that such evidence could not be used against them in any legal proceedings.
1.13. Scope of participants and their presentations
The Commission heard oral evidence from one hundred and four (104) witnesses and considered sixty (60) written submissions (See Annexure 6). Among the witnesses were relatives of the deceased, government officials, leaders of political parties, the Army, the Police, and representatives of Civil Society Organisations.
The witnesses fell into the following categories:
a. Those who were affected directly by the violence, including the ones who were injured and those who lost property;
b. Relatives and friends of the deceased;
c. Those who were not directly affected but gave an eyewitness account of what transpired;
d. Those who did not witness the violence but gave evidence as concerned Zimbabweans;
e. Those who came representing their institutions;
f. Expert witnesses;
g. The Police and the Army;
h. Government officials; and
i. Those who were invited by the Commission
1.14. Date of conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry’s work
The Commission concluded its public hearings on the 27th of November, 2018.
1.15. Web page of the proceedings before the Commission
The full written transcript and video recordings of the proceedings before the Commission will be made available to the public on a webpage (www.postelectionviolencecommission.gov.zw). References to evidence heard before the Commission that are made in this report can \be found in the transcript and video recordings of the proceedings.