Motlanthe Commission: Motive and evidence

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

IN relation to the whole electoral process in the 2018 harmonised elections in Zimbabwe, events of August 1 2018 appeared like someone had conspired to put poison or sand instead of icing on a perfectly baked cake which was almost ready to be served.
In other words, what happened looked like a conspiracy by a force or forces determined to tarnish the elections as a way to perpetuate the bad image of the country which had been used to invite and maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Indeed, the immediate difficulty created by those media and NGO outlets who argued only the ‘Government’ could have ordered the shooting of civilians was the absence of a motive for the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, to issue an order to shoot civilians given what he and his administration had to lose in the outcome.
As a result, the attacks mounted upon the Commission by Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, Jestina Mukoko and mass media houses sympathetic to the MDC Alliance will always raise serious questions about the role of the Alliance in the tragedy, regardless of what conclusions the Commission has reached in its report to the President.
This is so for two reasons!
First, the attempts to discredit the Motlanthe Commission are consistent with previous attempts to deny or to tarnish all efforts being made by Zimbabwe as a whole to rebrand and move forward in a new dispensation since November 2017.
Second, the attacks on the Motlanthe Commission point to problems within and about the organisations mounting these attacks, which problems will not go away when the Motlanthe Commission is gone and its report filed away.
We raised some of those permanent problems in this paper when, in February 2018, we tried to make sense of what happened at the burial of the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
One of the manifestations of these problems is a warped mentality which has given rise to an equally warped narrative of Zimbabwean affairs.
This mentality and narrative has been characterised by the propensity to attack and discredit anything positive about Zimbabwe, including our bi-partisan Parliament, the Judiciary, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and even the Constitution of Zimbabwe in terms of which these institutions have been set up.
What is indeed deplorable is that those media outlets which were used to try to discredit the 2018 harmonised elections have again allowed themselves to be used to try, pre-emptively, to discredit the Motlanthe Commission, as follows:
-‘How the Motlanthe Commission shot itself in the foot’, Bulawayo News 24, December 1 2018;
-‘Killings inquiry in shock move’, Daily News, December 1 2018;
– ‘Mystery surrounds killings report’, The Standard, December 2 2018;
-‘Motlanthe’s rushed report raises eyebrows’, News Day, December 3 2018; and
-‘Motlanthe Commission: Too little, too late’, News Day, December 3 2018.
What is of interest in the narrative
created to try to discredit the Motlanthe Commission is that it is a pre-emptive narrative, even to the extent of saying what evidence won’t be in the report which has not yet been received, as Mukoko tried to do.
Given the fact that the events investigated by this Commission were themselves meant to pre-empt and discredit the end result of the 2018 harmonised elections, it makes sense to compare media reports seeking to discredit the Commission’s report ahead of time with media lies used to try to discredit the 2018 elections ahead of time.
If we start from the time of ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ and the new dispensation in 2017, the narrative can be outlined as follows:
“Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, ED, can never win an election in Zimbabwe.” As a result, many within the MDC formations and some in ZANU PF campaigned on the assumption that ‘ED can never win.’
But, when the doomsayers were in danger of being exposed and embarrassed for who they are because all credible polls pointed to an ED win, the narrative was adjusted to say; ‘ED can win only by corrupting the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’. On this assumption the doomsayers put most of their resources into defeating ZEC in order to compromise ED.
But when the voters, as the first port-of-call, vindicated ZEC’s professionalism by voting peacefully, co-operating with ZEC and voting for ZANU PF and ED, the doomsayers opted for the Kenya 2008 strategy — invading ZEC’s National Command Centre itself in order to physically assault the centre and make the final tallying of votes impossible.
When the physical assault failed and ZEC announced the result on time, the doomsayers rejected both the result and the authority of ZEC to pronounce an acceptable result.
But when ZEC stood its constitutional ground, the doomsayers then pinned their hopes on the Constitutional Court to overturn the electoral result as well as and the authority of ZEC and legitimacy of the same.
But when after an openly broadcast trial the ConCourt upheld the people’s vote for ED, ZEC’s announcement of ED’s victory and ZEC’s compliance with the Constitution; the doomsayers attacked the ConCourt itself and sought to destroy the result by now focusing on punishing the people in order to defeat the entire programme of the new dispensation at home and abroad. This ‘final push’ is represented by the following front-page newspaper headlines:
– ‘America deals ED massive blow’, NewsDay, March 24 2018;
– ‘ED can’t rig the economy, Nelson Chamisa’, NewsDay, September 5 2018;
– ‘MDC plots to shame ED at UN (and around the US)’, NewsDay, September 27 2018;
– ‘ED trying to bribe (Donald) Trump, Nelson Chamisa’, NewsDay, September 25 2018;
– ‘Gloom, doom linger in Zimbabwe’, Financial Gazette, October 4 2018;
-‘Crisis!’, Daily News, October 6 2018;
-‘Talk to Nelson Chamisa to spur economy, ED urged as economy continues to bleed’, Daily News, October 8 2018; and
– ‘Companies close as Zimbabwe burns’, Daily News, October 9 2018.
In this long narrative, there was a whole week in which Nelson Chamisa said President Mnangagwa should just resign, since he was not a legitimate leader.
There was therefore no need for the MDC Alliance to talk to the President!
But suddenly, the doomsayers reveal themselves as unprincipled and shameless flip-floppers by moving fast from saying ‘ED can never win a national election in Zimbabwe’ to saying ‘He won but he is still illegitimate,’ onward to (in October 2018) begging him to talk to Chamisa as the only solution to solving all of Zimbabwe’s economic problems?
The sordid nature of the mentality I referred to earlier is that it is so bad and so deep that it has spared no one; not even Tsvangirai’s funeral in Buhera in February 2018.
So, it may not be surprising to MaDzimbahwe that even dignitaries from friendly countries who agreed to be appointed to the Motlanthe Commission in order to help the nation move forward are also being unjustly attacked by the very same political entities and media outlets who told endless lies meant to tarnish the 2018 harmonised elections.

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