European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen described the 2018 post-election and mid-January 2019 military inspired violence as a holdup to the country’s international relations.
This comes after the military opened fire and terrorized citizens in two different dreadful occurrences within six months leaving ordinary people nursing wounds with women groaning with rape trauma allegedly by members of the security forces.
Speaking at the public press committee at a local hotel in the capital Olkkonen said EU is still seized with human rights violations that characterized the post-election violence and the January protests adding that there cannot be ‘impunity’ of the culprits.
“The violence in August and January was a setback for our relations, and we will not shy away from this. It was also a problem for Zimbabwe’s reputation in Europe – and we need to talk about this, also with the government. There can’t be impunity,” Olkkone said.
The 1st of August 2018 violence engulfed Harare as reports of Presidential election outcome manipulation gathered steam with the ordinary citizens among them the opposition MDC supporters flooding the streets of the capital demanding early release of the results.
Mid-January 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced by more than 150 percent fuel price hike prompting countrywide protests led by the labour mother body Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU), an incident that again saw the military deployed to suppress dissent leaving at least 17 people dead as per Human Rights NGO Forum report.
When reached for comment Information, Media and Broadcasting Services deputy minister Energy Mutodi told 263Chat that the government appreciate the need for the country to dialogue around political violence that has been obtaining in the country in a post 2018 disputed presidential election.
“Government has addressed post-election violence in many forums and will continue to discuss it with whoever is concerned. It is important for the EU and whosoever is concerned to understand that in both cases, government was responding to anarchy and disorder authored and promoted by the opposition bent on manipulating every opportune situation to subvert a constitutionally elected government.”
He added that the deployment of security forces was necessary since the country was under siege from anarchists bidding to subvert the constitutionally elected government but regret that the crackdown left a trail of bloodshed.
“Security forces had to be deployed to restore order and it is very unfortunate that there were some fatalities in the process. We regret this as government and would want to assure the EU and the whole international community that our security forces will exercise restraint when dealing with protests.
“In the same vein, we will also continue to warn the public on the need to desist from violent and criminal behaviour such as the destruction of property and looting of shops. No government on this planet will ever tolerate such rogue behaviour,” he said.
In a telephone interview, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana told 263Chat that the EU and the government are signing the same hymn on the violence perpetrators saying there is no one above the law.
“So there is no point of dispute between the government position on this and that of the EU. Mr Olkkonen also said, “there can’t be impunity…” We have also declared that nobody is above the law. We are on record for saying nobody is above the law regardless of who their friends are or their position in society because our justice is blind. Here again, there is confluence between the government of Zimbabwe and the EU. It is having such common positions on matters that is the basis of our relations and re-engagement,” he said.
The government maintains that the opposition was central to the violence that took place in the country on two occasions.