August 1: Rights group questions probe team’s reluctance to protect witnesses

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By Leopold Munhende

CIVIC groups under the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) have queried the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 political violence’s commitment to protecting witnesses who have heeded its calls to come and testify before it, following acts of victimisation on many.

The Kgalema Motlanthe led probe team concluded its official inquiry into the disturbances which claimed six civilians, with its findings set to be handed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa this Saturday.

Addressing journalists in Harare Friday, forum executive director Blessing Gorejena said the rights group was concerned over acts of both state and public victimisation on witnesses with no action being taken by the commission.

“The forum reiterates that the commission has to ensure the security of witnesses, victims and anyone who would have interacted with it during its work,” Gorejena said.

“The forum developed a set of principles for witness protection that were shared with the commission following its establishment.

“The principles emphasised the need for the commission to prioritise the security of victims and human rights defenders that testified and provided evidence to the commission.

“It is therefore apparent that the commission has done very little if anything at all to ensure witness protection.”

Gorejena cited the arrest of Mthwakazi Republic Party activists in Bulawayo, pro-MDC activist Makomborero Haruzivishe who was assaulted in Harare and retired army Lieutenant Colonel Elliot Piki who was abducted under unclear circumstances.

Piki was set to give submissions to the inquiry team Tuesday but was allegedly seized by unidentified assailants from his Waterfalls home.

The incident happened in front of his wife Sibongile Sakutukwa who later reported the matter to police.

Th Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) confirmed that Piki later escaped but not in time to give his testimony to the commission whose officers maintained that collection of evidence was complete.

Haruzivishe was assaulted by unknown assailants in Harare’s CBD.

Mthwakazi activists were arrested in Bulawayo following protests over government’s decision to open investigations into the death of six Harare people when their calls to do the same on 20 000 civilians in the restive region over 30 years ago were being ignored.

MDC-T spokesperson Linda Masarira and freelance journalist Maynard Manyowa have also been forced to file complaints with the police after their lives were also threatened.