Zimbabwean military officials deny the killing of 6 civilians during an August protest in Harare which broke out days after the country's presidential elections.
During a hearing which was nationally televised, two generals testified under oath to the Commission of Inquiry that, though soldiers were deployed to control demonstrators and shots were fired, none were aimed at civilians and their deaths were a result of the protests.
"I do not believe that any of the soldiers fired. Yes, they fired in the air, but I do not believe any could have aimed shots at the civilians. I have no reason to believe that one of the soldiers could have shot and killed those people," Defense Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda said.
Rights organizations were up in arms, rejecting the testimony citing the dozens of viral videos and photographs provided by both national and international media corporations which show soldiers firing repeatedly at protesters.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) denounced the testimony of Sibanda, Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, and Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, stating that impunity surrounds a number of cases of alleged police brutality.
“We have also noticed conflicting statements from the police and army top brass with a senior police officer seemingly blaming the army for the shootings. We note an apparent attempt to blame the opposition, business and ordinary citizens for the shootings and this will likely lead to a witch-hunt that will see continued persecution of hundreds of activists that were arrested in the aftermath of the 01 August killings on false charges,” CiZC said in a statement.
Since the August protests, no cartridges have been found, no arrests have been made, and no suspects interrogated, State Investigator Edmore Runganga confirmed.
In response, Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said, “This just confirms our previously stated position that this commission of inquiry is a farce, a process meant to cleanse the army and put blame on the opposition. We are not taking it seriously.”