SIX unarmed civilians lay dead in various locations across Harare’s central business district on the afternoon of August 1, 2018, after being shot by soldiers from the Zimbabwe National Army. A total of 35 sustained injuries.
The rampaging soldiers — deployed to quell protests in the city — fired live bullets at fleeing civilians, stunning the world and tearing into shreds President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promises to end authoritarian impunity and chart a reformist path.
The victims and their families have not found closure, two years on, as nobody has been held accountable and the government has not bothered to apologise for the gruesome shootings.
For the bereaved families, the wheels of justice have stood motionless for two long years. When the Zimbabwe Independent reached out to the grieving families this week, they expressed emotions of unspeakable loss, suffering, torment and despair in the face of an uncaring government.
Mnangagwa instituted a commission of inquiry headed by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, but many have criticised it as a charade as the recommendations have not been implemented, two years on.
Part of the recommendations was the setting up of a committee to process compensation for losses and damages, including payment of school fees for the children of the deceased, promotion of political tolerance as well as accountable to leadership and citizenry. Another recommendation was that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Before the wounds had healed, in January 2019 the security forces shot and killed more than a dozen more people.
Gavin Dean Charles, who would have been 50 this year, lay in a pool of blood along Fourth Street (now Simon Muzenda Street) on August 1 2018, after being shot by the security forces and efforts to revive him were futile as he died several minutes later.
The Independent this week spoke to his family to find out how they are coping with such a heart-rending loss. His sister, Alison Charles, said they have not even received an apology from the government.
“Nothing has happened in the last two years. We do not know who killed him, there has not been any justice and we do not know if we are going to get justice for his death. We are not even sure if the person who killed him will get reprimanded,” Alison said.
“Vengeance is not mine as the Lord says, so I have just left it to God. Anyone responsible will face what is coming to them. We have not even gotten an apology, which would have been kindhearted; it would have made us feel better. But they have shown that we do not matter. The healing process has taken long.”
She said no official has reached out to the family to discuss compensation.
“I am the executor of his estate and his daughter is a beneficiary and we have not gotten anything. My brother left behind a daughter, who is now 14. It is difficult to try not to remember. As a family, it has been hard for us. But personally I have been helped by my faith,” Alison said.
“He was a quiet person and passionate about music and his country. He was self-employed and he had dreams of owning land to build his business and to live.”
Alison said the family had to bury Dean in a grave that had been reserved for their mother at Harare’s old Pioneer Cemetery.
“We are planning on putting a tombstone on my brother and mother’s grave. When he died, we had to bury him in my mother’s grave at Pioneer Cemetery. We buried him at seven feet and when my mother died we cremated her and put her ashes in the same grave,” she said.
On August 1, 2018, Maxwell Tauro also lost his 20-year-old son, Ignatius Tauro, who was shot in downtown Harare.
The distraught Tauro told the Independent this week that he has grown weary of trying to follow up on his son’s murder as the police handling the case keep telling him there has not been any progress.
Ignatius had just married and, according to Tauro, he carried the hopes of the family.
“No one has reached out to us. I once followed up on the docket and they said they will tell us when they need me. My last interview was with the Motlanthe commission and there were promises that we would get compensation, but nothing happened.
“I need a death certificate and it is now two years but we do not have that.
(He was) 20, he had just married his girl and her parents came to take her. He used to work at Gulf (downtown flea market), loading music, fixing phones and his body was picked up close to the Mbare flyover.
“It is just that we do not have power, if I had the power I would use them to make sure I get justice for my son’s murder. I am just pained. We all know that Mhosva inoripwa (one must atone for crime) and no one is above the law. It’s two years now, it was a disaster just like any disaster and it seems like they are focusing on what they think matters, meaning to them we do matter.”
In February this year, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Zimbabwe National Army Commander Lieutenant-General Edzai Chimonyo refused to pay two shooting victims more than ZW$800 000 in damages for injuries sustained during the August 1 2008 atrocities. Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo challenged the victims to name the soldiers who shot them.
The two victims, Loveday Munesi (30) and Tapiwa Tshuma, a commuter omnibus driver, dragged Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo to the courts last year, seeking damages.
Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo were cited as the first and second respondents respectively in the court case.
Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo, through their lawyer Mutumbwa Mugabe and Partners, refused to pay damages, arguing that the applicants should identify the soldiers who shot them on the fateful day. They said if the alleged shooters are not named, the victims are not eligible for compensation.
“Plaintiff has neither identified the alleged assailants nor proffered an explanation for their non-citation. In the absence of the alleged offenders no cause of action on vicarious liability arises against first and second defendants,” Muchinguri-Kashiri and Chimonyo said in response to Tshuma’s claim.