Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa was interviewed on French news network France24, where he told his interviewer, Marc Perelman, that he did not believe reports that his army carried out rapes and killings during the recent unrest in the country which was sparked by a fuel hike that saw the price of petrol more than double.
Perelman reacted to Mnangagwa talking about alleged violence perpetrated by the protesters by asking about the conduct of the Zimbabwean army.
“We’ve seen accounts of women saying they were raped, we’ve seen claims by NGOs that there were 17 extra-judicial killings, you’re talking about violence by the protestors but clearly there was violence by the military and very serious violence,” Perelman said.
“We have both through print, media, radio, and tv appealed to those victims to come forward and report to the nearest police station. If you’re not comfortable to report to the nearest police station you go to the nearest church and report the abuse you underwent. There’s only one single case that has come up,” Mnangagwa claimed.
READ MORE: Fuel price hikes put Zimbabwe on its knees
“The rest we now know that the women were paraded, it was just made up,” he continued, adding that he believed the women making the allegations were “stage-managed”.
Mnangagwa then turned to “the other issue, the beatings”, at which point Perelman corrected him, pointing out that he had brought up “killings”, not beatings.
The Zimbabwean president said if “the army is directly or purposefully killing people, we would want to see evidence”, adding that all the claims were made on “social media”.
“These were just invented?” was Perelman’s incredulous response.
Here's why there must be a credible, independent, impartial, international & judicial investigation of the January atrocities. Mnangagwa's dismissal of rape victims as "make up & stage managed" & his offhand denial of Army killings render his regime unfit to do any investigation! pic.twitter.com/hjTEGPUNhd
— Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) February 11, 2019
Am beyond shocked by the denial of rape by President Mnangagwa. ZRP have publicly said it can take 8-10 years for a rape victim to come forward. In my case I only faced it after 12 years, and still don't know where or how to report. The callousness exhibited here is mindblowing. pic.twitter.com/f1HR8KzPM3
— Tsitsi Dangarembga (@efie41209591) February 11, 2019
More than 600 protesters were arrested in mid-January in Zimbabwe, as state security agents unleashed a violent crackdown on citizens who participated in the protests.
At least 12 civilians died and hundreds more were injured.
“We regret the loss of life but we needed to protect property as well as other citizens not involved in the protests,” Mnangagwa recently told local reporters.
When the government more than doubled fuel prices in Zimbabwe, it lit a tinderbox of public anger that exploded in violent protests.
The situation regarding fuel was already dire before the hike, with drivers waiting hours — even days — for fuel in recent months. This was one of the most visible daily signs that Zimbabwe, which has suffered 15 years of economic hardship, was entering a new phase of turmoil.
(Additional reporting by AFP and ANA)