Zimbabwe army used 'unjustifiable' force in post-election clashes

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BBC captures footage of post-election violence in Harare

Zimbabwe's military used "unjustifiable" force against opposition protesters in the wake of this year's presidential election, an inquiry has found.

Six people were killed after troops intervened to curb protests in the capital, Harare, on 1 August.

The independent commission said the army had acted disproportionately when it fired on fleeing demonstrators.

But it blamed some opposition figures for inciting the violence.

The army and police clashed with demonstrators who took to the streets amid allegations that the ruling Zanu-PF party had rigged the 30 July vote.

"The commission's finding is that the deaths of those six people arose from the action of the military and the police," a summary of the final report reads.

"The use of live ammunition directly at people especially while they were fleeing was clearly unjustified and disproportionate," it adds.

The seven-member commission, which was set up by President Emmerson Mnangagwa following his narrow victory, found the deployment of the military to have been legal.

It also accused the opposition MDC Alliance of enflaming tensions, citing speeches from some of its leaders.

"Had the riots not been checked the situation could have escalated resulting in disastrous consequences," it said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Protests erupted on August 1 amid allegations that the ruling Zanu-PF party had rigged the vote

The commission has recommended that the government pay compensation to the families of the victims and to the dozens of people who were also injured in the protests.

On Tuesday, Mr Mnanagagwa said he would ""study the recommendations and decide the way forward".

"I am satisfied that the commission of inquiry diligently carried out its mandate," he added.

But the opposition immediately dismissed the report and said the government was trying to "whitewash" the actions of the military.

"Our view is that they are... making a false equivalence between the demonstrators and those who were shooting unarmed protesters using bullets and guns," an MDC spokesman said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said last month that protesters had "opened themselves for attacks"

"It was very stupid, even, for people who demonstrated… it was stupid, because they then opened themselves for attacks and manipulation," he told journalists.

On the same day as the protests Mr Chamisa refused to accept the election result, arguing that he had won the popular vote.

Mr Mnangagwa narrowly avoided a second round when he took 50.7% of the vote, which was just 30,000 more votes than the minimum needed for outright victory.

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