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Justice eludes 2018 shooting victims

On the fateful day, soldiers indiscriminately fired on fleeing protesters who were demanding release of the presidential election results.

FAMILIES of the six people who were fatally shot by soldiers in the August 1, 2018 post-election violence say they are still waiting for justice five years on, with another round of polls less than a month away.

On the fateful day, soldiers indiscriminately fired on fleeing protesters who were demanding release of the presidential election results.

Under the command of Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe, soldiers were deployed to contain demonstrators who were demanding election results after the July 31 harmonised elections.

The soldiers oped fired at the fleeing civilians in the capital Harare, among the six who were caught up in the shooting was 48-year-old Charles Gavin, now late, who left behind a daughter who turned 18 this year.

Speaking during a Twitter space organised by the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, Charles’s brother Damian said the family was struggling to make ends meet and still waiting for the relevant authorities to bring the killers to book.

“My brother was a hard worker who looked after his family. He left behind a young daughter who is still to come to terms with what happened to her father,” he said.

“Life has been difficult for her. We struggled to raise her after the death of her father. We struggled with her tuition to put her through school. She deserves to know what happened to her father and she deserves compensation.”

The family members said the sad episode still traumatised them.

“It is difficult for the family. We are still traumatised. We demand justice for my brother who was a father and also a son,” Damian said.

In the wake of the shootings, President Emmerson Mnangagwa instituted a commission of inquiry led by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The commission concluded its findings in December 2018, recommending, among other things, that government pays compensation to the families of those killed and to the wounded, saying perpetrators needed to be held accountable.

However, five years down the line the families are yet to be compensated.

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission spokesperson Obert Gutu said he could not comment since he was in a board meeting.

Heal Zimbabwe Trust director Rashid Mahiya called on the government and the security sector to respect people’s rights and compensate the victims.

“People’s political rights should not be infringed. We must ensure that the victims are compensated. There is the issue of national trauma that needs to be dealt with,” he said.

The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) said until government addressed the issue the nation would remain wounded.

NTJWG co-ordinator Fortune Kuhudzewe said government should implement the Motlanthe Commission recommendations.

“We remain wounded as a nation and based on the time that has elapsed without any meaningful recourse; we have little hope in attaining justice. We are now headed towards another election, yet our elections are synonymous with violence,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (NGO Forum) said it was aggrieved that the Mnangagwa administration had failed to genuinely implement the Motlanthe Commission recommendations.

“The forum is aggrieved that five years later, there have been no meaningful attempts or steps taken to genuinely implement the commission’s recommendations,” the rights defenders said in a statement.

“This is not just in relation to the 1 August 2018 shootings, but also in relation to the number of political and human rights violations that have occurred in the aftermath of this incident. A 2018 Post-election Violence Monitoring Report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, recorded a total of 274 human rights violations between 1 and 31 August 2018.  “The fact that such a high number of violations were recorded over a short period is indicative of how the immediate post-election period was tainted by a brutal crackdown on opposition political party members and activists,” the statement read.

The organisation also expressed concern that there has been no evidence of comprehensive security sector reforms to ensure that the August 2018 events are not repeated.

“Instead, the State was found wanting again when there was a repetition of the 2018 shootings through the yet again tragic January 2019 shootings.

“The State once again, deployed the military to quell protests against the rising prices of fuel. In this incident, 17 people lost their lives as a result.

“Almost five years on, there has been no evidence of disciplinary action taken against the perpetrators of both the 1 August 2018 or January 2019 killings to date,” the NGO Forum added.

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