Statement on the police violence and irresponsible shooting of live bullets in Marondera, Zimbabwe today. Dr Nkululeko Sibanda, Presidential Spokesperson: 01 December 2019

As part of President Chamisa’s smart environment agenda he has declared December of every year a smart-climate and tree-planting month. This to motivate the nation and the country to plant and preserve trees. This would enhance biodiversity and increase chances of food security in the country while mitigating against the impact of climate change on our country and on the globe.

In order to kick start this declaration, President Chamisa arranged to visit Marondera and plant trees, while raising awareness towards the smart environment agenda. The President made appropriate arrangements with the local authority to visit a local school that requires the planting of trees, as it has an open expanse of clear land. However, as morning arrived the school had been barricaded by about 200 heavily armed security personnel that included both uniformed and non-uniformed individuals. When we arrived at the scene, we were informed that there had been orders from on-high to the effect that the event should not be allowed to take place.

Under these circumstances the Mayor and the local MP arranged to move the event to areas under their control, which the police or the state had not barricaded or declared interest in. The police had been fully aware before the event and never said that they were stopping the event because it was an illegal meeting or gathering, they simply said that had then received instructions to prevent tree planting from taking place. In fact, they were so crude as to search our car for any seeds or seedlings and almost caused a whole situation after mistaking a tissue paper pack for a secret stash of seeds.

The President started by planting trees at Marondera Municipal offices and then proceeded to Dombotombo clinic where the process continued.

The situation started off very calm and quickly unravelled as soon as a group of heavily armed security personnel, who were in police uniform arrived. The personnel were more armed than those experienced in previous public situations. Almost every one of them had at least an AK47 rifle and those that handled the police dogs also carried with them pistols. They had at least 4 police dogs, in each car and had individuals dedicated to tear gas operations.

These state agents did not talk to anyone even when there were attempts to understand their aggressive approach and demeanour. The shooting of live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas began almost as immediately as the vehicles came to a halt, and the shooting of live ammunition at was aimed at the people of Marondera, and particularly those within proximity of President Chamisa.

Let there be no doubt that this event was not a political gathering or a meeting but a tree-planting activity to which the President was encouraging our society to take care of mother earth. The callous and unconscionable behaviour and attitudes towards such an event is troubling and, honestly, unredeemable.

The world must now be awake to the dangers of situations of the unhinged, insecure, almost barbaric and savage relationship that these state apparatuses want to have with the country. A government whose single purpose and excitement is reduced, by its illegitimacy, to that of harming citizens and to cause the most excessively extreme violence, is a danger to itself, its neighbours and the national security interests of Zimbabwe and her neighbours. It continues to bring shame and unnecessary disrepute to Africa and her heroic people.