Army crackdown: Govt accuses own rights commission of bias

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By Anna Chibamu

GOVERNMENT has dismissed as biased, a recent Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC)’s report linking the state to massive rights abuses in the wake of violent citizen protests over fuel price increases last week.

The countrywide skirmishes elicited a brutal government reaction which saw security forces fire live rounds at civilians with the government rights commission putting the death toll at eight.

In its report, the rights commission blasted Zimbabwean authorities for resorting to military force to manage citizen unrest, even going further to use fire power on civilians leading to loss of life and injury.

Responding to the accusations during a press conference in Harare on Friday, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi castigated the commission for alleged bias.

“Government has taken note of the ZHRC report,” Ziyambi said.

“The ZHRC is a constitutional commission put in place to strengthen our democracy and therefore there is an expectation that they be partial and speak without bias.”

The wild protests, which were more intense in Harare and Bulawayo, coincided with a three-day job stay away that had been called by local labour and rights groups to also protest rising levels of poverty under the Zanu PF led administration.

Rights groups have also reported massive torture, rape and dragnet arrests during the crackdown that followed the riotous period.

Ziyambi felt the rights commission’s report on the period only concentrated on the response by security forces and ignored the destruction carried out by protesters.

“Their report falls short of that standard as it is not based on thorough investigation.

“It only covers the period after the first two most anarchical days of the disturbances.

“…Government expects our constitutional commissions not to be polarised by making broad and unsubstantiated accusations without concreted evidence.

“In the interest of justice, government will engage the ZHRC in order to map the way forward for the benefit of the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Ziyambi urged all those with complaints against armed forces to report to police so that they can be investigated and brought to book.

“Government wishes to assure the public that all the accusations against our uniformed forces will be thoroughly investigated and the law will be allowed to take its course. Those with complaints should report to the police,” he said.

This is the second time the military has fired live ammunition on unarmed civilians since Mnangagwa muscled his way to the top job through a 2017 military coup.

However, government is yet to prosecute anyone among its armed forces after six civilians were also shot and killed during the August 1 post-election protests last year.

The abuses have invited wide local and international condemnation.