New Zimbabwe.com

Chigumba admits poll demo fright, deplores army use of live ammunition

By Leopold Munhende


ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission (ZEC) chair, Priscilla Chigumba has admitted having been frightened by hordes of protesters who were baying for her blood during the August 1 post-election violence in Harare but maintains security forces should have used live ammunition “as a last resort”.

She was giving oral evidence Tuesday before the Commission of Inquiry into the country’s worst electoral violence in 10 years.

Six people were shot dead by what is commonly believed to be members of the military who were quickly dispatched into the city centre to put down wild protests that threatened to become a fully blown civil unrest.

Security commanders who have appeared before the commission have admitted their troops fired bullets into the air to scare away pro-MDC protesters but denied any of the rounds caused the widely condemned deaths on civilians.

In her submissions before the seven member panel, Chigumba said although she did not personally witness any killings by anyone because she was in her hotel room at Rainbow Towers, she felt the use of live ammunition within the crowded city centre should have been a last resort.

“I did learn from the media, I was not there. I did not see it. The media said the army killed people, the army shot people in the back,” said the ZEC boss.

“In an ideal world perhaps, live ammunition could have been used as a last resort but as I said I am not a soldier, I am not a policemen, I was not on the ground. But speaking for myself, having been under siege inside the building with a rowdy mob outside, burning effigies of you and pictures. That is very frightening.”

Chigumba however apportioned some blame on the opposition MDC she accused of failing to send representatives to inter-party liaison meetings by ZEC but often chose to vent their disapproval around processes through social media.

“There was a lot of conflict happening behind the scenes in the command centre,” she said.

“For us, that did not come as a surprise. They told us enough times that if their main candidate did not win, there was going to be chaos.”