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Four years later, no justice for victims of August 1 massacre



AUGUST 1 is a painful reminder for Allison Charles.


Her brother Gavin Charles was shot in cold blood by marauding soldiers on this fateful day four years ago.

Gavin was shot in the back and killed by ferocious soldiers who were armed to the teeth, spraying bullets with reckless abandon.

The 42-year-old was murdered at close range, with bullets ripping through his upper torso, leaving him gasping for breath. He had no chance.

He was shot twice from behind and doctors said there was evidence he was shot at close range, judging from the firepower exhibited in the gunshot wounds.

Killed in cold blood in broad daylight in the heart of Harare, Gavin’s name is etched in a dark period in Zimbabwe after the 2017 military coup that toppled long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.   

Security forces opened fire on civilians on protesters in the aftermath of the 31 July general elections in which incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa had a wafer-thin win over his rival Nelson Chamisa. The shooting resulted in Mnangagwa, who had promised to break with the past, losing international goodwill.

Gavin, an unemployed father of a 13-year-old girl then, lived in Norton and had visited his sister for a few days.

On the fateful day, his family waited in vain for his return in the evening. They had prepared his favourite dish, grilled hake, which he never got to enjoy.

His family only got to know about his death through social media images of him lying in a pool of blood. Allison will never forget cringing at the sight.

“We heard it off the internet and saw his pictures on the social media. He was lying dead on the street. I am the one who was first to recognise him off my wife’s phone. We tried to get to town to check on him, but we couldn’t get through because the army had blocked off everywhere,” a relative said at that time.

They believe Gavin was among bystanders who watched protesters in central Harare. But fate was unkind to him and five others who died a brutal death.

“He never fought with anyone; he never hurt anyone, and he was a humble man. I think he was an observer and not taking part in the demonstrations because he was not that kind of person to cause harm on anyone,” a relative said.

Four years after Gavin’s brutal death, his remains lie in an unmarked grave, his sister told The NewsHawks.

“There has been no justice to date. It is now four years, and my brother is lying in an unmarked grave with no tombstone,” Allison said.

“We cannot even afford a tombstone.”

Dozens of families of victims of the 1 August shootings feel angry and aggrieved, four years after the army opened fire on unarmed civilians.

Gavin’s family is yet to receive compensation for his killing, and the same applies to dozens of families still seeking recourse.

Four years on, they impatiently wait for the elusive reparations for their brother’s murder.

They demand to know: Who shot Gavin? The answer may never come.

“We want to know at least if the person who shot him has accounted,” Allison said.

Gavin’s daughter, now in Form Two, is doing well in school, according to Allison, but she is bitter that the state has not offered help for her upkeep.

“Her mother is taking care of her. She is now in Form Two and doing very well in school. Nobody has contacted me to help or even talk about compensation,” she lamented.

Those killed on the day were Silvia Maphosa (53), Ishmael Kumire (41), Gavin Dean Charles (45), Jealous Chikandira (21), Brian Zhuwao (26) and Challenge Tauro (20).

Of the six victims, four were shot in the back and two in the front.

The 1 August 2018 shootings, widely condemned by the international community, have haunted the Mnangagwa administration.

Despite setting up the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry into the shootings, little has been done to implement the recommendations.

On 26 August 2018, Mnangagwa referred to the shootings as “regrettable and most unacceptable”.

The commission found that the deployment of the military was lawful but that the operational framework in terms of section 37 (2) of the Public Order and Security Act [Chapter 11:07] had not fully been complied with.

The Motlanthe commission made several recommendations that include compensation for losses and damages caused, including support and school fees for the children of the deceased: electoral reforms as well as accountability in respect of the alleged perpetrators.

“The Motlanthe Commission suggested that they pay out families, but nothing has been done. We should at least know who shot my brother,” Allison said.

While the government remains mum on compensation, the families continue holding out hope that, one day, justice will be served.

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