When Matanga took to the stand‚ he said President Emmerson Mnangagwa “supported and authorised” the deployment of the army and Matanga directed his military counterpart to act. Therefore‚ it was done above Ncube’s pay grade.
Matanga told the commission that the army had acted in earnest.
“If ever the soldiers fired their weapons‚ if ever they did‚ they did so in good faith‚" said Matanga.
Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe‚ the Presidential Guard commander‚ said that a picture of a soldier kneeling down to take aim while another soldier tried to stop him – a picture that went viral – was interpreted incorrectly.
Sanyatwe claimed that the soldier had knelt down to avoid stones from rioters and that the soldier had only fired warning shots into the air. He said that any deaths registered took place before the military was deployed.
“All those were shot before we deployed and this is true because we never came across a dead body‚” he said.
Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces‚ General Philip Valerio Sibanda‚ told the commission that he heard gun shots before soldiers were deployed.
Sibanda’s testimony attempted to dispel the widely held view that the army had shot civilians. He said the only order given was to “advance and not take a kneeling position” and if soldiers had fired their AK47 rifles‚ one round of ammunition could have taken at least six lives.
“I don’t believe that any soldier opened fire on civilians. If that had happened‚ the death toll would have been higher‚” he said.
Both Sibanda and Sanyatwe suggested that the violence was likely a result of the MDC’s “militant” wing – The Vanguard – which Sanyatwe said consisted of army deserters‚ and which Sibanda said had arms caches.