Like apartheid in South Africa, Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe is a festering wound. It is one issue that divides the two nations and refuses to be swept under the carpet 33 years after the signing of the Unity Accord that brought an end to Gukurahundi — the State-sanctioned atrocities that killed over 20 000 people mainly in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1982 and 1987.
No leader from the ruling Zanu PF party has acknowledged the atrocities by State agents or apologized to the people from the regions. The late former President Robert Mugabe the closest he came to apologising was at the burial of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe referred to the atrocities as “a moment of madness”.
Mugabe’s successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa despite calling himself a reformist, is still to apologise and call Gukurahundi by its name as an atrocity by the State. Like Mugabe, Mnangagwa has started another process of investigating what happened and what should be done to atone for the pain and suffering the Ndebele-speaking people went through at the hands of the State after independence in 1980. Atrocities committed by their fellow liberation colleagues and not the racist Ian Smith colonial regime.
Mnangagwa on Valentine’s Day met civil society leaders from Matabeleland to discuss Gukurahundi. The President could not call the atrocity by name but said he hoped the country would overcome the acrimonious dispute. He exhorted that the “issue” would be resolved through internal dialogue and negotiations.
Mnangagwa was quoted by NewsDay saying: “You are aware, this is a sensitive issue that requires careful consideration, with due regard being given to the sensitivity of the affected families, communities and relevant culture and customs that are in place at the location of their burial sites.”
He added: “My government is working on achieving a consensus on how best to address this situation in a manner that will not offend anyone. In due course, I will receive recommendations from all concerned parties, including the affected families, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, traditional leaders and other civic society groups.”
This is insincerity writ large. Who is Mnangagwa afraid to “offend” or reach “consensus” with as definitely there is only one group — Ndebele-speaking or people from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces who were massacred by the State machinery?
The evidence that this was State-sanctioned is available from different sources including Joshua Nkomo’s autobiogragh Nkomo — The Story of My Life. There is also evidence from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace which produced a report Breaking the Silence. Both articles point to a specially-trained Fifth Brigade that committed the atrocities. The State on its part has two independent commission reports — Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe — that more than 30 years later are still locked up in some vault and kept away from the public who funded these commissions by their taxes.
If Mnangagwa is sincere and contrite about the atrocities, he should release the reports into the public domain. Failure to do so proves that he is unrepentant just like De Klerk who denies that apartheid was a crime against humanity even after the United Nations decreed it so. One cannot help but say on this score, De Klerk and Mnangagwa are in the same WhatsApp group.
Zimbabwe having no equivalent of EFF, it may be the duty of the civil society to push through all legal and constitutional means to have the Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe reports released.
Zimbabwe needs to heal this festering wound once and for all.
May the real Mnangagwa stand up.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.
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