The Motlanthe commission report could be ED’s test

As President Emmerson Mnangagwa counts down to his maiden first citizen anniversary, as I see it, the probable outcome of the commission of enquiry into the August 1 brisk shooting of civilians in Harare must be tormenting him. It must have made him search deep down his soul.

guest column: Cyprian Ndawana

Although he is said to be a man of nine lives, none of the challenges he faced could ever have thrust him into the lions’ den and shaken him to the core of his being as did the brutal slaughter of civilians. It was a gory incident that ran contrary to all the values he preaches and vows that his new dispensation administration was committed to uphold.

Henceforth, assuming the presidency, Mnangagwa hit the road running, brimful with the message of a new beginning. He was out and about, proclaiming that Zimbabwe was open for business. He was upbeat, enthused by the dawn of a new era he was privileged to spearhead

He dispelled the notion that the removal of former President Robert Mugabe was a coup d’etat, vouching that his predecessor was safe. The objective of his removal was to get rid of the criminals that were surrounding Mugabe. Like the Biblical John the Baptist, Mnangagwa had a simple, yet profound message of better days ahead.

Of all the political challenges he faced, among them the delicate process of consolidation of power, the least he ever expected was the gunning down of citizenry. Unlike the free-falling economy or corruption which he could scapegoat, the slaughter of people was one of its kind.

There will be drastic consequences for Mnangagwa in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces should the commission conclude that the assault was committed by the military. Despite his famed charmed life, he will not escape the legal principal, ‘Qui facit alium facit per se,’ (he who acts through another, does the act himself).

Although the scale and scope of assault was far less than that of Gukurahundi, its ramifications are, indeed, far reaching. Coming as it did on the immediate aftermath of hotly disputed harmonised elections, the shootings were more poignant than incidental.

What was particularly scary about the gunning down was that it was dramatic and perfectly executed. It had the hallmarks of expertise, which only well-drilled riflemen can perform, hence the public perception that it could only be the military that was unleashed on civilians.

Yet, origins of the assailants continue to be a mystery. But, given the efficiency of our security and intelligence institutions, one would rightfully be confident that bringing the assailants to book obviously is within the sphere of competency of our law enforcement agents.

Heaven knows where the assailants emerged from and where they receded to after the bloodbath they left on the streets. Be that as it may, it is my fervent belief that they later on rued pulling triggers. As I see it, the brutality of spraying live ammunition on defenceless people, who were actually fleeing with their lives, cannot be erased from one’s conscience by a night’s sleep.

Oftentimes, there is a lull inherent in the benefit of hindsight that is so sobering that even the devil incarnate yields to it and momentarily becomes humane. Yet, it is surprising that even as the commission got underway, none of the attackers felt impelled into confession.

Obviously, after weighing his options, Mnangagwa opted to forgo the convention of police investigations. He, instead, preferred to institute a commission of enquiry, whose chairmanship he bestowed on former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

As the commission deliberates, premonition haunts me into loss of appetite and sleep. There is a nagging sensation in my guts that the findings have prospects of dumbfounding the nation in general and government in particular.

Based on my humble deductions, it is improbable, which ever way anyone may look at, that the assailants deployed themselves. It would be a foolhardy summation to entertain the thought that the gruesome operation was performed by hobbyists than by professionals.

Probabilities are minimum, if not zero, that the assailants assigned, equipped and deployed themselves. Actually, there could be no clearer indications of the dawn of commandeered politics than in the subjugation mood with which the operation was carried out.

Sadly, those who perished amount to nothing, but mere collateral damage. Regardless of how intense their yearning for adventure might have been, it is impractical for an impromptu gang of street walkers to muster the refined military acumen as seen on the fateful August 1 shooting.

As if the bitterly disputed harmonised elections are not worrisome enough for Mnangagwa, he obviously meditates over the seven slain victims who could not complete their journeys back home on the fateful day. He does not want their blood to be regarded as the fuel that drove his electoral victory, disputed as it might have been.

Amid his brooding over the yet to be completed Motlanthe-chaired commission report, as I see it, anticipation must be mounting on Mnangagwa. The die will be cast should the report incriminate the military. He dreads an outcome that would compel him to march out of step with the forces.

Stakes are high if he were to be on collision course with the military. He is particularly indebted to the men in boots for their roping him in to be President, henceforward the deposal of Mugabe. It gave him a new lease of life after he had taken a safety flight into the Diaspora, subsequent to his dismissal from party and government.

Also, Mnangagwa is fully aware that the generality of cadres he now leads are not camaraderie. They are at most fair weather associates capable of delivering the Judas kiss. Indeed, they are not dependable when the going gets rough and tough. Even now, they are threats to impeach him.

They are the very ones who did not support him when he got fired, claiming that he had no probity. Hence, the military is his fort and oasis. Little wonder, he is anticipating the outcome of the commission with bated anxiety. He knows well, where his strength is anchored.

Notwithstanding that the commission was funded from public coffers, it is worthy my while, at risk of appearing imperious, to pray Mnangagwa to straightaway release the report once it is complete. He has to breakaway from the precedence set by Mugabe, who threw the Gukurahundi report into the abyss.

It would be disdainful to the victims and their bereaved families in particular, and citizenry at large, if he were to procrastinate the release. It suffices to implore him to likewise bite the bullet and release the long withheld Gukurahundi report.

With several decorated officers now holding influential positions in party and government, could it be that military rule is nigh? Methinks citizenry, unbeknownst, are staring at the dawn of the unsavoury supremacy of the bullet over the ballot.

Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana is a public speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist. Email

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