Human Rights groups have called for security sector reforms in the wake of the shooting and killing of fleeing civilians by security forces on August 1 in central Harare. The army has rejected culpability before the Motlanthe Commission.
The army has, in the past, been blamed for gross human rights violations most of which are election-related. The army and other state security organs have strenuously rejected the accusations.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s Blessing Gorejena told a Southern African Political and Economic Series (Sapes) discussion on Thursday that the army remains the elephant in the room as the government has continued to shield it from scrutiny. Gorejena had this to say
The inquiry should probably help give insights into how Zimbabwe can deal with the continued excessive use of force by the military. It is not happening for the first time because if you look at the major violent incidences over the years, the military has been identified as a key, if not the main player, in those violations.
For the past 20 years or even in the period before this, the hand of the military in all violent epochs is clear. We have taken cases to court and in all the army has been found as having violated the rights of citizens. One of those cases resulted in the disbandment of the SADC Tribunal which found in our favour with government clearly shielding perpetrators. The elephant in the room is not something that is very secret to us.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Roselyn Hanzi said senior figures in the country’s security sector who gave evidence before the Motlanthe-led commission blatantly lied under oath.
We were concerned about the conduct of some of the officials who appeared before the commission and its failure to call them to order. There was a lack of accountability on the part of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. In the past, there are numerous cases in which the military has been taken to court for violating citizens’ rights. In many of the cases, victims would not be able to directly identify the perpetrators but could link them through uniforms or vehicles used. The stance of the Ministry of Defence has always been to deny even where there is evidence… This needs to be worked on going forward for us to have a professional defence force that is subject to the dictates of the Constitution…