THE United States is ratcheting up pressure on the Zimbabwean government to expeditiously compensate families of the six people who were shot dead and those injured on the streets of Harare by the military on August 1, 2018.
Shortly after Zimbabweans cast their votes in a disputed poll that was later narrowly won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the military deployed soldiers who opened fire on unarmed civilians protesting what they perceived as a delay by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) in announcing the presidential results.
The protestors were also marching against the alleged rigging of the polls by Zec.
The Zimbabwe Independent last week revealed that Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and Zimbabwe National Army commander General Edzai Chimonyo are refusing to compensate two victims who wrote to the government and the army through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Washington, which has previously expressed concern over Harare’s failure to bring the perpetrators of the killings to book, says the compensation of victims would prove the government’s commitment to implementing the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry’s report on the killings.
The commission found that the military and police were responsible for the shootings. The probe also urged the government to bring the culprits to book as well as to compensate victims.
“We have previously encouraged the government of Zimbabwe to fulfil its commitment to fulfil the Motlanthe Commission recommendations, which includes the payment of compensation to victims,” US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols told the Independent. “The overall pace and scope of reforms is very important to the future of Zimbabwe and we hope that the government will move forward in that direction as expeditiously as possible.”
Two victims of the shootings, Loveday Munesi (30) and Tapiwa Tshuma, are collectively claiming ZW$800 000 in damages for injuries sustained during the shootings.
But Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo, in their joint response, declined responsibility and argued that for any compensation to happen, the victims should identify and cite the perpetrators in their application.
This is despite the commission’s recommendations that government should be held responsible for identifying and apprehending perpetrators.
Munesi — who still has a bullet lodged in his right buttock — is seeking funds to undergo complicated surgery in India, while Tshuma lost his job as a commuter omnibus driver as a result of the shooting.
Mnangagwa, who had risen to power through a military coup which toppled the late president Robert Mugabe in November 2017, instituted a commission of inquiry to probe the circumstances surrounding the shootings.
The government has, however, failed to implement the resolutions, triggering international concern. The diplomatic community has also questioned Mnangagwa’s commitment to implementing far-reaching political and economic reforms.
Zimbabwe’s failure to implement reforms has resulted in the US contemplating adding more people to the targeted-sanctions list.
Nichols said the US government is still in the process of reviewing the senate’s proposal to add more Zimbabweans on the sanctions list.
Last month, senators Jim Risch, chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Chris Coons, a member of the Sub-committee on Africa and Global Health Policy, wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the US Department of the Treasury update the list of sanctioned people in Zimbabwe.
Washington is expected to ratchet up pressure on the government by tightening the restrictive measures until Zimbabwe makes the necessary political reforms and stops human rights abuses.
“We are very much looking at the letter that the senate committee sent to the Secretary of State and Treasury on this topic. I’m sure that at the appropriate moment we will take action to maintain our policy and our goals of maintaining reform, respect for human rights and fighting corruption,” Nichols said.