Zimbabwe poll-violence probe set to begin its work
Former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe was back in Harare yesterday to begin work as the head of a seven-member commission of inquiry into the post-election violence early last month.
The commission's work is expected to be complete by year-end and all its proceedings and findings will be made public.
"We want to hear all the versions of what happened. It will be a public process … and we think that the terms of reference allow us to do our work," Motlanthe said.
The post-election violence, which blighted otherwise peaceful elections on July 30, was widely condemned by the international community.
Members of the commission of inquiry were sworn in on Wednesday by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a function at State House in Harare.
The other members of the commission are international law expert Rodney Dixon QC from the UK, former Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria, former Tanzanian defence force head Gen Davis Mwamunyange, University of Zimbabwe lecturers Charity Manyeruke and Lovemore Madhuku, and a former president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Vimbai Nyemba.
Six people died in the post-election violence and property worth thousands of dollars was vandalised, according to the authorities. The elections, the first since the ousting of Robert Mugabe in November last year, prompted allegations of cheating by the opposition MDC Alliance.
Motlanthe said all Zimbabweans were welcome to help the commission in its work.
According to the Commissions of Inquiry Act, a commission has extensive investigatory powers and can summon witnesses and compel them to give evidence under oath. Witnesses who fail to heed a summons can be imprisoned for six months.
The Motlanthe commission's terms of reference include:
To report its findings to the president in writing within three months of the swearing-in of the commissioners;
The identification of those who took part in the protests, their leaders, motives and strategies;
To inquire into the intervention of the Zimbabwe Republic Police in the maintenance of law and order;
To investigate the circumstances that necessitated the involvement of the military in assisting in the maintenance of law and order; and
To consider whether the degree of force used against protesters was appropriate.
However, the civic rights watchdog group Veritas Zimbabwe has raised concerns about the legal standing of the commission.
It said that when Mnangagwa announced its creation, there had been no cabinet in place to advise him...