Gift Phiri 7 March 2018
HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been accused of “disregard of
truth” and refusing to take responsibility for political killings,
torture, and abductions by government security forces and the ruling Zanu
PF during and after the presidential election run-off in 2008.
In an interview with the authoritative The Economist, Mnangagwa denied
that previous elections were unfair, especially in 2008, when NGOs
reckoned that hundreds of activists of the opposition MDC were killed
after then leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat former president Robert Mugabe in
a hard-fought presidential poll.
“It was fair, very fair. Where is the evidence for violence? Not a single
case was taken to the police,” Mnangagwa told the English-language weekly
Politicians, pundits, and people of all political stripes were quick to
condemn Mnangagwa’s comments on social media as a “flagrant disregard of
truth and decency” that many said were undermining accountability for the
Human Rights Watch documented cases of violence during the 2008 elections,
showing that the Zanu PF-led government was responsible, at the highest
levels, for widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up
to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5 000 more, and the displacement
of about 36 000 people.
Analysts eviscerated Mnangagwa, accusing him of attempting to whitewash
the “killings” in an extraordinary diatribe against a sitting president.
Piers Pigou, senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said:
“Profoundly shocking and unpresidential.”
Analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Mnangagwa is just being a politician.
“Did you expect him to say `yes’? Him and (now Vice President Constantino)
Chiwenga engineered a sadistic, pugnacious and vehement operation to
unconstitutionally turn the Tsvangirai victory into a Mugabe result?
“He also knows very well that many cases were reported to police and also
it was a waste of time to report cases to same police that were also
allegedly implicated in the violence. He was just speaking as a
politician. Nothing much to get from this. This was nothing but mere old
and tired political banter.”
Saungweme said his account confirms that nothing has changed since 2008.
“The military action on November 15, 2017 ushered in the same old story,
though the cranium has changed from that of a 94-year-old to that of a
75-year-old. The footing, the edifice, the logic, and the modus operandi
remained the same. November 15, 2017 will go down in history as a day when
Zimbabweans celebrated a change that never was. A tough lesson that not
all change is useful.”
Post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg and
researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya told the Daily News Mnangagwa’s statement
shows he is not prepared to administer free and fair elections.
“The GNU came about because both AU and Sadc refused to recognise the
outcome of the violent June 2008 elections.
“Most significantly, president Mnangagwa was in charge of the military
onslaught against the civilian population in that disputed elections.
“Evidence of extra-judicial killings in Zaka, Mazowe, Gokwe and many other
places where heinous crimes were committed by the security forces can only
be disputed by those who were involved in the abuse.
“Mnangagwa is simply denying taking responsibility because its now clear
that the group that was responsible for those abuses is now in charge of
the State and mostly likely they will use both covert and overt violence
to retain power with the security forces especially the military being at
the forefront of this democratic subversion and electoral manipulation.
“Therefore if the 2008 run-off election was free and fair as ED says, then
may be he wanted a second Gukurahundi or Holocaust,” he said.
Academic and pro-Mnangagwa newspaper columnist Reason Wafawarova said: ” I
have also asked for the list of names of the 200-plus people said to have
been killed. Surely they had names and family.”
UK-based academic George Shire, a fierce backer of Mnangagwa, said
politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe has been generated by people
linked to all our political parties.
“I condemn it unreservedly. I have and continue to be critical of the way
in which discussion on this subject is always premised on the assumption
that all if not most of this violence is institutionally driven by Zanu
PF,” he said.
“The other point I make is that opinion is divided on whether the 2008
elections themselves were free and fair.”
He said the 2008 elections were certainly conducted in an atmosphere of
violence “but that does not lead one to conclude that they were not free
or not fair.”
“The MDC did come close to winning the 2008 election but bottled out of
the second round of the presidential election. The GNU was a product of
finding an amicable solution to the problem of legitimacy.”
Shire said his quarrel was with the The Economist article and it’s
“Why now?” he asked rhetorically.
“We are in an election year and all our parties are in election mode.
“The MDC leadership is, as we speak, is silent about the violence that is
engulfing that party.
“One would have expected an unqualified condemnation of the events
everybody witnessed at
Tsvangirai’s funeral and in Bulawayo in the last few days.
“The private media also continues not to investigate or pay attention to
this and one is tempted to conclude that the selective focus or return to
2008 or to Gukurahundi is a calculated attempt to divert our attention
away from the real material issues that our country faces now,” Shire told
the Daily News.