Disturbances that led to the death of six people and damage to property on August 1 could have been avoided if MDC-Alliance had allowed the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to announce Presidential results as enshrined in the law without hindrance, the commission’s chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has said.
Testifying before the Commission of Inquiry into the August 1 incident, Justice Chigumba said the loss of life was regrettable.
She said the incident took the commission by surprise as the build-up to election day was peaceful.
Justice Chigumba said MDC-Alliance, particularly its leadership, displayed wanton disregard of the law even before the elections by making provocative statements and threatening to make unofficial announcement of election results.
“The killings and shootings of 1 August are regrettable and the commission joins the nation in condemning the use of such force which led to the loss of life,” she said.
“It is the commission’s view that such action could have been avoided if the process of results collation and announcement had been allowed to take its course in accordance with the law.
“According to the commission, this action can only be attributed to the following things, firstly the deliberate disregard of the electoral law by some political parties.
“The country has a clear legal framework that governs the conduct of elections which provides when results of the Presidential election are to be announced.
“However, in this case there was clear and deliberate flouting of the law by some political players who surprisingly are officers of the court, but deliberately misled their supporters for political mileage.
“The commission also noted that the MDC-Alliance leadership, before the official results were announced, had declared their presidential candidate the winner and openly boasted that they will announce the results of the elections in defiance of the provisions of Section 66 of the Electoral Act which outlaw the purported announcement of election results or declaration of a winner by any person other than an electoral officer.”
Justice Chigumba continued: “Prior to the elections, the MDC-Alliance had mobilised its supporters against the commission which resulted in some of its female commissioners being sexually harassed. Some commissioners were issued with death threats and derogatory remarks were being made against my person in particular.”
She said the commission learnt on the day in question that the MDC-Alliance supporters were threatening to storm the election command centre that was housed at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare.
She said they also learnt from sources that the reason for the demonstrations was the allegation that they had delayed the announcement of the Presidential results and that some shenanigans were underway to steal the MDC-Alliance purported victory.
Executive director of Free and Fair Foundation Mr Gabriel Chaibva also gave a detailed account showing the MDC-Alliance as a violent political party from its formation.
He said events of August 1 were synonymous with the violent nature of MDC-Alliance.
Said Mr Chaibva: “I am a founder of the MDC party. If you listen to leaders of MDC they say we are a peaceful party and let me be pre-emptive to say that is far from the truth. That is not what they do. There was intra-party violence within the party dating back to 2000 and 2002 towards the Presidential elections. In 2005, the party eventually split and the late Ambassador Trudy Stevenson was macheted by the MDC.”
Relating to the events of August 1, Mr Chaibva said he heard MDC-Alliance leaders addressing people at their Harvest House saying: “ZEC is delaying to announce the results because they want to rig for President Mnangagwa. We must defend our vote. Songs were sung denigrating President Mnangagwa, denigrating Zanu-PF and other provocative statements.”
Acting officer commanding crime Detective Chief Inspector Edmore Runganga said: “We received a report of public violence in which six people had died and motor vehicles were burnt at Zanu-PF Harare provincial headquarters and eight other vehicles were damaged at the Zanu-PF national headquarters, then 15 vehicles of different people were damaged in town and a total of 48 shops were vandalised during the process.
“So far we have arrested 41 accused persons in connection with the violence and the damage to the shops and other property. They have already appeared before the courts and they have been further remanded to 12 November and they are still pending trial.”