A new look at imagery gathered by ADR has revealed some useful information on the ZDF’s fatal “clearing” of Harare’s streets in the wake of its August elections. With three people shot dead by Zimbabwean Defence Forces members, all of whom appeared to have no insignia identifying their units, rank or general status in the military, culpability effectively ground to a halt.

This is not so:

The above photo taken by ADR’s photographer during the ZDF clampdown is crucial, as it shows the driver of the ZDF ACMAT TPK 420 armoured vehicle on his mobile phone, beret on head.

The beret is the unmistakable yellow of the ZDF Presidential Guard. Likewise, the approximate shape and profile of the beret’s pin/badge matches that of the same unit.

Why this matters

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa was emphatic in his denial of ordering military units onto the streets of Harare, let alone authorising the use of liveĀ bullets. Labelling reports of his authorisation as “fake news”, there is a massive question as to how the Presidential Guard, itself acting explicitly in the interests of the president, was on the streets of Harare actively participating in the violence.

Thus, either Mnangagwa was outright lying about his involvement in approving the deployment of Presidential Guard units onto the streets of the capital, or, possibly more concerning, he had no idea about the action at all. In one, the president is quite possibly complicit in sending troops on the streets to shoot his political opponents, and in the other, the president is entirely incapable of controlling soldiers who are theoretically sworn to obey his orders.

Mnangagwa has just appointed a multinational panel to investigate the shootings. With the government line being that the men in uniform were “imposters”, it’ll be up to the panel, headed by South Africa’s former president Kgalema Motlanthe, to pierce the obfuscation.