Zimbabwe election violence: No closure for families two years on

Allison Charles is still haunted by the image of her brother’s lifeless body lying in a pool of blood.

“They just shot him like he was a dog and left his body on the street,” she said.

Gavin Dean Charles, 48, was one of the six people killed in Zimbabwe’s capital two years ago when soldiers opened fire on opposition supporters protesting against what they said was an attempt by the governing ZANU-PF party to steal tightly contested elections.

Many other demonstrators were wounded in the army clampdown in Harare’s central business district on August 1, 2018, with some of the casualties shot from the back.

“I am still struggling to sleep at night and to come to terms with everything that has happened,” said Charles. “I am taking anti-depressants now.”

She is not the only one struggling to cope in the aftermath of the bloodshed.

“The death of my son still hurts, even now,” said Maxwell Tauro, whose son, Challenge, was also killed on that day. “He was a good boy who was working in town and who was not politically active.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was declared the winner of the disputed July 30 vote, announced in late August that year a Commission of Inquiry to look into the post-election violence.

The commission announced its findings in December 2018, recommending among other things the government pay compensation to the families of those killed and to those wounded, saying perpetrators needed to be held accountable.

At the time, Mnangagwa had said he would “study the recommendations and decide the way forward” – but to date, none of the commission’s recommendations has been implemented.

“I have not heard from the government on compensation,” Tauro said. “They bought a coffin and food for the funeral and that was it. When we buried Challenge, we never saw them again,” he added.

The commission, which was chaired by former South African interim President Kgalema Motlanthe, also recommended financial support including school fees for the young children of the deceased – but Charles said the government has yet to provide for her late brother’s daughter, a high school student.

“My niece needs school fees and other things to survive,” said Charles.

Meanwhile, Loveday Munesi, a survivor of the August 1 incident who still has a bullet lodged in his buttocks, is still waiting for a court to rule in his case after he sued the government for the wounds he sustained in the shooting, according to his legal representatives.

“Loveday is one of the persons who were mentioned in the Motlanthe report and gave evidence before the Commission of Inquiry which recommended that government should set up a fund to ensure that victims of the 1 August incident are compensated,” said Kumbirai Mafunda, a communications officer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

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