THE Human Rights NGO Forum yesterday raised a red flag over the way the Kgalema Motlanthe-led commission of inquiry into the August 1 shootings has been conducting its work, alleging there was lack of clarity in the way the commission was handling evidence.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
The NGO Forum, a grouping of several human rights non-governmental organisations, also expressed fears of tampering with evidence by the commission’s secretariat as well as the commission’s silence around security and safety of witnesses.
Addressing journalists yesterday, NGO Forum director Blessing Gorejena said her organisation had been perturbed that the commission wound up its inquiry on Tuesday before even acknowledging the evidence that they had presented before it and denying an opportunity for critical witnesses to appear before it.
“The key issue of concern is the lack of transparency on procedures of handling the evidence submitted to the commission,” Gorejena said.
“There was no acknowledgement or feedback received from the commission of the submissions filed by the forum and its members who made individual submissions. The submissions were filed via email and hand delivered to the commission secretariat at the commission’s offices at Cresta Lodge Hotel.
“The forum is concerned that there appears to be interference with evidence presented by our members to the commission,” he said.
Gorejena said the forum was also concerned by the silence of the commission when witnesses were harassed, either before testifying or after, citing the case of Retired Lieutenant Elliot Piki, who was reportedly abducted before testifying and Makomborero Haruzivishe, who was attacked by unknown assailants a few days after testifying.
Piki, who later allegedly escaped his abductors in Mazowe on Tuesday, showed up at the commission, seeking a chance to testify, but was reportedly denied before the closure of the programme.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ Lizwe Jamela said Piki spent the whole afternoon trying to seek an opportunity to testify, but was denied.
Piki was allegedly abducted by suspected State security agents from his home on Sunday and his whereabouts had remained a mystery until he resurfaced in Mazowe on Tuesday. He was due to testify on Monday.
She said the forum’s chairperson Jestina Mukoko wrote several times to the commission, requesting to be called to testify after giving video evidence, but was never granted the opportunity.
“On October 12, the forum’s Ms Mukoko wrote again and attached a bundle of evidence which included affidavits of evidence of 18 victims and witnesses to the shootings as well as evidence of the relatives of the deceased.
“The evidence also contained post-mortem reports of the deceased, clearly showing that they died of gunshot wounds. In the cover letter accompanying this evidence, the forum’s chairperson once again offered herself to appear before the commission and give oral evidence as well as to answer any question regarding this evidence.
“Neither was she nor 15 of the witnesses whose evidence was placed before the commission, called to testify.”
The forum will today hand over a petition to the commission.