Soldiers used whips to assault people in Harare, Zimbabwe, following demonstrations by opposition party supporters. Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg – Zimbabwe police opened murder cases and are continuing to investigate the deaths of six protesters and bystanders who were shot dead by the Zimbabwe military in post-election violence on 1 August, a report released by a commission of enquiry on Tuesday revealed.

The 1 290-page report outlines that the commission led by former SA president Kgalema Motlanthe established that the Zimbabwe military had used excessive force following the July presidential elections. 

However, it was also established that opposition members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa came in for severe criticism for inciting the protests.

During dramatic evidence - which included journalists arguing with the commission over lack of access to the building where the inquiry was being held and asserting that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation was getting preferential treatment - multiple witnesses testified before the commission as to what they had witnessed first-hand on that fateful day.

When the protests first erupted the police at initially fired into the air before later aiming directly at protesters. They were also accused of whipping and beating people.

“Since the moment we received the post-mortem reports we conclude that these were the result of firearms which were used so we are trying to identify who could have caused the deaths of these people,” a police official told the inquiry.

“So we have translated those six cases into murder cases considering the seriousness of the issue … that death was involved. So far our investigations are still in progress. We have not yet actually established how they met their deaths," he added.

The MDC’s for its part was accused of stirring up violent protests and forcing its way into the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) after picketing outside. 

A ZEC official also said she had been harassed and abused by opposition supporters.

But the strongest criticism of the MDC came from former spokesperson Linda Tsungirirai Masarira, who left the party after a fall-out with alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.

“MDC is a party full of highly intolerant people. They think they are the Alpha and Omega of Zimbabwe politics. The eloquence of their leaders in preaching peace is not actually put into practice,” Masarira told the inquiry. 

She further accused the MDC Alliance of threatening her with death and abduction.

Commission members also broached the issue of possible outside involvement that may have stirred up the violence.

But one of the witnesses was also questioned as to whether foreign involvement was partially to blame for the violence but he stated that if people were so influenced then their credibility needed to be questioned.

“We are accountable and we should reprimand ourselves,” the witness stated as it appeared that blame for the bloodshed could be apportioned to numerous instigators.

African News Agency/ANA