Motlanthe plays down judge’s comments on Chiwenga hand into army killings

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By Staff Reporter

EX-South African President Kgalema Motlanthe says his Commission of Inquiry into Zimbabwe’s August 1 post-election violence will not be swayed by High Court judge David Mangota’s unintended suggestions Wednesday Vice President Constantino Chiwenga had a hand in the killing of six civilians by the army.

He was addressing the media in Mutare on Saturday.

This was after his probe team had conducted another evidence gathering session among residents of the eastern border city who witnessed the ill-fated Harare skirmishes.

“All what the court has done was to say the commission was established in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe. So the Commission can then proceed with its work. It`s mission was not pre-empted by that court order,” said Motlanthe.

Justice Mangota Wednesday threw the cat among the pigeons when he suggested the country’s Defence Minister was consulted before armed military personnel was unleashed into central Harare to quell the disturbances.

The judge was dismissing a court application by one Allison Charles and the Counselling Service Unit (CSU) who took President Emmerson Mnangagwa to court seeking the disbandment of his inquiry team.

Charles and CSU had argued that Mnangagwa was “conflicted” in the matter, further saying the President, as commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, wielded authority to deploy soldiers, and hence, it was irregular of him to order a probe into his own his conduct.

But in his ruling, Mangota said the command structure within the police and army on matters of security was followed with the police commanders consulting their line Minister and the latter consulting the Defence minister for a decision on the deployment of soldiers to assist an overwhelmed police quell the violence.

“…He (defence minister), in turn, dispatched members of the defence forces who worked under the command of the regulating authority of the district of Harare,” he said.

At the time, VP Chiwenga doubled as defence Minister.

There were however concerns that the court ruling may have pre-empted the Motlanthe enquiry’s own findings long before the report could even be produced.

Motlanthe denied this Saturday, adding, “The court was specific in mentioning that the prayer for those who brought their case before it was to question the legitimacy of the commission”.

Meanwhile, Motlanthe said from November 7 to 9, the Commission’s secretariat heard evidence from 24 different witnesses in the city Mutare.

“Today, the Commission heard evidence from 13 witnesses. I therefore wish to assure you that all your views will be taken into consideration when we come up with our report and recommendations,” he said.

Motlanthe said his commission has, to date, heard a total of 124 witnesses from three Judicial regions (Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare).

“The Commission would like to assure the nation that no one shall be arrested or intimidated for testifying before this commission,” he said.

The ex-South Africa President said his Commission shall continue with hearings in Harare on Monday and Tuesday with the police and the army also expected to give their own testimonies.