The high cost of impunity

ON page 3 today, we carry a news article detailing the appalling treatment victims of state-sponsored violence have been subjected to in Zimbabwe.
It has been two years since six unarmed civilians were shot dead in cold blood by rampaging soldiers in central Harare. A total of 35 others sustained injuries.

Two years later, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. This is despite the recommendations of an official commission of inquiry chaired by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The probe found the government liable for the killing of Sylvia Matambo, Brian Zhuwawo, Challenge Tauro, Gavin Charles Dean, Ishmael Kumire, Jealous Chakandira. The commission, in no uncertain terms, said the authorities are culpable and that “the use of live ammunition directed at people especially when they were fleeing was clearly unjustified and disproportionate”.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, through its special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, compiled a damning report, laying the blame squarely at the government’s doorstep. Voule criticised the Zimbabwean government’s “over-reliance on the military to quell dissent”.

Motlanthe’s commission recommended the setting up of a committee to process compensation for losses and damages, including school fees for the children of the deceased, promotion of political tolerance and accountable leadership and citizenry. Most importantly, the probe found that it was important to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Riding on the impunity that has characterised Zanu PF rule since 1980, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has not implemented the commission of inquiry’s recommendations.

One of the slain citizens, Gavin Dean Charles, would have turned 50 this year. His daughter is 14. Mnangagwa and his government have not even found it necessary to apologise to his family. What sort of human beings are these?

Ignatius Tauro was 20 when he was gunned down in the prime of his life. The government has not bothered to reach out to his family. Those in power just do not care.
The pattern of naked impunity is not new. This week, Lands minister Perrance Shiri died and was promptly declared a national hero.

Shiri was commander of the murderous 5 Brigade which slaughtered thousands of unarmed civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the 1980s. Mnangagwa will not talk about that chapter because his hands are also dripping with the blood of innocents.

In the 21st century and in a country that claims to be a constitutional democracy, how does a government seriously praise a soldier who led genocide? What exactly is Mnangagwa’s government failing to say to the people of this country? That the lives of 20 000 Zimbabweans do not matter at all?

There is no greater manifestation of leadership failure than impunity. The inevitable consequences are now clear for all to see: economic collapse, hunger, poverty, fear, hopelessness and civil unrest.

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