Editorial Comment: Prosecute killer soldiers 

Source: Editorial Comment: Prosecute killer soldiers – The Standard December 22, 2018

President Emmerson Mnangagwa deserves praise for keeping his word that he will make public findings of a commission of inquiry into the cold-blooded murder of protestors by soldiers on August 1 even when the report reflects badly on his leadership.

Editorial Comment

Mnangagwa last week released the findings of the Motlanthe Commission, which found that the military and police were responsible for the deaths of six people and injuries of scores that took to the streets of Harare on that fateful day to protest against delays in the release of presidential election results.

Despite several flaws, that include its failure to identify the soldiers who killed the innocent civilians and prescribing the ideal compensation for the victims, the Motlanthe probe was a good start.

The commission said the firing of live ammunition at unarmed civilians was “unjustified” and that the army used disproportionate force to quell the protests.

It ignored former Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu’s outlandish claims during the hearings that alleged MDC Alliance snipers that were positioned at tall buildings were responsible for the deaths.

By all accounts, Mnangagwa’s government came out of that process badly bruised and this is why we found the president’s decision to make the findings public very bold.

His predecessor Robert Mugabe refused to release two reports by commissions he set up to investigate the post-independence massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces carried out by the army’s Fifth Brigade.

Mugabe’s intransigence for over 30 years remained the major stumbling block to national healing and some of the people responsible for those heinous crimes are now holding important government positions today.

On the other hand, the release of findings of the Motlanthe Commission can help victims find justice and the much needed closure, unlike what is happening to those affected by Gukurahundi.

However, making the report public might prove to have been the easiest thing to do for the president.

The national and international observers are now waiting with bated breath to see the recommendations made by the commission being implemented and this includes the identification and prosecution of the soldiers behind the death of civilians.

Mnangagwa’s decision to promote Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, who commanded the crack unit behind the August 1 killings has already cast doubt about the president’s commitment to deliver justice for the victims.

The president is also yet to apologise for those deaths, days after making the findings public. If he is sincere about ensuring restorative justice for the victims, a heartfelt apology will be a starting point.