Small arms used in August violence: forensic experts

by Tawanda Musariri

Forensic experts specialising in firearms say small arms were used in the August 1 incidents that killed six people on the streets of Harare.

This followed mayhem unleashed by suspected MDC youths who were demanding premature announcement of presidential elections results less than 24 hours after the close of polls.

Giving her oral evidence before the Kgalema Motlante led Commission of Inquiry into the post election violence in Harare, head of Forensic Ballistics at the Criminal Investigations Department, Superintendent Tsitsi Paradzai said projectile perforations at inspected scenes were consistent with those left by those caused by projectiles propelled by small arms.

"Weapons that were used were small arms because the holes witnessed were consistent with those caused by weapons in this category. Small arms cover shotguns, pistols and riffles," said the forensic ballistic expert.

Paradzai, however, informed the Commission that the evidence had been tampered with by the time the investigating teams arrived at the scenes, making the evidence insufficient to cause usefully conclusive decisions over the exact nature of weapons used though it was sufficient to ascertain the size of firearm muzzle.

"I cannot go straight to which calibre it was which shot the bullet because all the holes at the City Centre car park guard room were tempered with. Some nails had been pushed into the bullet holes," said Paradza

Paradza's expert advice appears to corroborate claims by earlier witnesses of the possibility of the presence of guns among the marauding rioters on the day.

Notably too, a bus parked at the City Centre car park (former Ximex Mall) had been cleaned off, destroying useful evidence in deciding the type of weapon responsible for propelling the projectile, testified Paradzai. 

It is not clear why witnesses chose to temper with the evidence. Isolating ignorance of the evidence gathering procedure, it is difficult not to speculate over deliberate action leading to the destruction of evidence by the assailants for fear of the long arm of the law.

In her evidence, Paradzai admitted that indeed there was varying differences in the weapons that left holes in the city as well as those that shot and injured or killed people on the street.

The hearings will continue on Thursday, with leader of the opposition MDC Nelson Chamisa expected to testify. This follows an invitation by the Commission to him so he could give his side of the story since his name was mentioned by several witnesses regards the skirmishes of the day.