WITNESSES yesterday relived the horrors of the post-election violence which ripped through Harare on August 1 and saw members of the army killing seven civilians in a crackdown on opposition supporters protesting over the delay in announcing presidential results.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Six witnesses, mainly Zanu PF supporters and officials, took to the stand as the former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe-led Commission of Inquiry into the violence opened public hearings late yesterday afternoon.
Lawson Nyanhanda narrated the ordeal he faced as he tried to drive through the city to fetch his girlfriend who was stranded at the Rainbow Towers.
He was twice stopped by soldiers who asked him to lie on the ground and said he was only saved from the unknown ‘by the intervention of God.’
“One soldier jumped into my car and I was forced out. They asked me to lie on the ground. Another group of people who were running saved me because the soldiers turned their attention to them and left me alone,” he said.
Nyanhanda said he was forced to dump his car and proceeded to look for his girlfriend on foot. At that time, he saw soldiers chasing after members of the public, firing shots.
“For the first time in my adult life, I wet my pants. I had never heard a gunshot before and when the guns went off as I tried to take cover, I messed myself. It might sound funny now, but at that time it was real horror,” he told the Commission.
He said, generally, riot police who were monitoring the demonstrators were relaxed and friendly during the commotion, while soldiers appeared to be in total control of the situation and running operations on their own.
A Zanu PF official, Peter Zimowa, who twice lost elections in Kuwadzana to Nelson Chamisa, accused the opposition MDC Alliance of fanning the violence.
He told the commission that party youths singing songs of praise to Chamisa, ran amok around Fourth Street, burnt a bus belonging to Nyasha Zenda and cars that were parked at the Zanu PF Harare provincial offices.
Zimowa said armed police officers who guard the offices had to run for cover as the youths threatened to set the premises on fire.
“I would not want to get deeper into it because these were trained people, so I don’t know if they were running away or it was part of their training,” he said.
Zenda, who is a losing Zanu PF council candidate for ward 6, said the MDC Alliance youth wanted to burn him alive as he made an effort to rescue his $100 000 bus parked at the Zanu PF offices.
Zenda said he escaped from further harm by hiding in the boot of a vehicle.
Patricia Ruzawo, who served as an observer during the election, said she suspected the hand of other political parties in the chaos.
“There were a lot of political parties, some who were peaceful, but I would like to believe that some political parties fanned the violence,” she said.
An attempt to give State broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, a monopoly to cover the public hearings by commission secretary, Virginia Mabiza was resisted by the media who challenged Motlanthe to ensure that the hearing was not closed.
Motlanthe eventually allowed the media to cover the hearings.