via Gukurahundi killed 80,000: Eddie Cross 27 August 2014
OPPOSTION MDC-T legislator, Eddie Cross, has claimed that the 1980’s government-sponsored Gukurahundi pogroms could have killed up to 80,000 people with probably five times that number displaced and driven into exile.
Human rights groups have all along estimated that at least 20,000 ethnic Ndebeles were killed in Matabeleland and the Midlands regions when then prime minister Robert Mugabe ordered a crack North Korea-trained military unit to crush a rebellion by former Zipra combatants.
A report by the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) said victims were buried alive while some pregnant women had their wombs slashed open.
But in an article entitled Mugabe’s Moments of Madness published on his AfricanHerd blog, Eddie Cross – a senior MDC-T official – claimed the death toll could have been much higher than initially estimated by rights groups.
“Based on listening to those affected and reading what little research has been done, I estimate that the number of deaths ran to many tens of thousands – perhaps as many as 80,000 people, with probably five times that number displaced and driven into exile – mainly to South Africa,” writes Cross.
“The cruelty and suffering was indescribable – whole families burnt alive in their homes, armed men shooting people and throwing their bodies into mass graves and mine shafts, bayoneting women and using rape as a political tool.
“Mass deprivation of food and other basic essentials and services was commonplace and involved whole regions. The obvious objective was to crush the Zapu party and subjugate the Ndebele people.”
The killings only ended when Mugabe forced then rival Joshua Nkomo to join his Zanu PF party with the Unity Accord deal which was reached in 1987.
The findings of two probe committees established by Mugabe – the Chihambakwe and Dumbutshena commissions – were never made public and it remains unclear whether their recommendations were acted upon.
The veteran leader has also ignored calls, some coming from his Zanu PF party, to deal with festering anger over the atrocities. Campaigners want authorities to help with practical problems which include children of the victims failing to get identity documents.
There is also little prospect that those responsible for the killings will be made accountable for their actions. Current air force chief, Perence Shiri, was in charge of the army’s Fifth Brigade when the campaign was launched.
His Zanu PF party dismisses opposition demands for redress as cynical attempts to use the sensitive subject to win votes in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions.
But the opposition parties warn that victims of the atrocities will not forget.
“You talk to people in Tsholotsho, Kezi … who had their relatives put in a hut which was locked and doused with paraffin before being set ablaze; we can’t forget without talking. My own brother was killed by Gukurahundi. We can forgive, but will not forget.”
Marcellina Chikasha, the leader of the newly formed African Democratic Party (ADP) this week added: “I do not think calling it a moment of madness brings healing.
Cross, meanwhile, said Gukurahundi marked the beginning of “mass social engineering” by Mugabe to “entrench (Zanu PF’s) grip on power at all costs”.
Similar programmes, he claimed, include the land reform programme which displaced hundreds of thousands of farm workers who could not be trusted to support Zanu PF.
In 2005, Mugabe’s government also unleashed Operation Murambatsvina which again targeted urban slums thought to be havens of opposition support, resulting in 700,000 people being affected, according to the United Nations.