By Audience Mutema
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has described citizens who demonstrated last August and January this year, only to meet with live ammunition from the army, as “criminals who had violated the rights of others.”
The President said this in a statement read on his behalf by leader of government business in Parliament, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, notifying the house of his decision to deploy the military to brutally suppress the protests, two incidences that left almost 20 people dead and dozens with gunshot wounds.
In the Wednesday statement, Mnangagwa gave his belated notice to Parliament of his decision and the reasons for the action.
He argued the deployments were consistent with the laws of Zimbabwe.
In the case of the January violence, the President said Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, having satisfied himself of the riotous situation existing in all major cities and towns in the country, and “having satisfied himself that the rioters had violated the right to life, right to human dignity, right to personal security, right not to be compelled to belong to an association or to attend a meeting or gathering, right to freedom of movement, right to hold, occupy, use and dispose of property, right to education and rights of children or ordinary citizens and residents, as enshrined by the Constitution”, requested for assistance from the army.
Mnangagwa insisted proper procedures in deploying the army had been followed through Defence Minister initially current Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in August and then Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri in January, after being satisfied that police were out of their depths.
“Having been satisfied that the Zimbabwe Republic Police was unable to contain the riotous situation as aforementioned, which resulted in the loss of life, brazen violations of basic human rights, personal security and destruction of private and public property, including Police Stations, the Commissioner General in terms of Section 37 (1) of the Public Order and Security Act [Chapter 11:17] requested the Minister of Home to use his discretion and request the Minister responsible for Defense, to authorise the Defense Forces to assist the police in the exercise of their functions in terms of the Act in order to suppress the violent, riotous and destructive conduct that was occurring throughout the country, which conduct undermined the rule of law and citizens’ rights as aforestated,” said the President.
According to the statement in both cases Chiwenga and Muchinguri-Kashiri in both instances guided by section 2113 (1) (2) (b) of the Constitution that provides that only the President, has the power to deploy the army advised Mnangagwa that it was the proper thing to do.
Mnangagwa according to the statement having “applied his mind to the situation” then authorised the deployment.
On August 1st last year, Mnangagwa let loose the army after spontaneous protests reportedly by opposition activists who were demanding the release of presidential election results.
At least six people were killed forcing the Zanu PF leader to set-up a commission of inquiry headed by former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
While the military claimed it had not been responsible for the deaths, Motlanthe’s commission found the defence forces had used disproportionate force in dealing with the protests leading to the casualities.
From January 14-16 this year, the army was again deployed after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions had called for a mass stay-away that turned into an orgy of violence. The result was massive destruction, 12 fatalities and an unknown number of people were left nursing gunshot wounds especially in Harare.
There have been arguments that Mnangagwa had not been responsible for the deployments with Chiwenga the immediate past defence forces commander accused of being behind the brutalities.