HARARE – Civil society groups have said it was an “outrage” for government to arrest 10 Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) youths who exercised their right to demonstrate in Bulawayo last weekend against President Emmerson Mnangagwa for his alleged involvement in the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide.
About 10 youths were allegedly beaten to pulp by members of the army and police and were later detained at Mzilikazi Barracks after they were reportedly dragged outside the venue of a church meeting at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds where Mnangagwa was the guest of honour.
Civil society groups said it was an outrage to arrest Mthwakazi youths official based on “pro-genocidaires lunacy.”
MRP said the youths were first publicly beaten by both the police and the army as soon as they were pushed out of Hall Three at ZITF where they had staged protests against Mnangagwa, who was State security chief during the so-called Gukurahundi crackdown, when an estimated 20 000 people were killed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland and parts of Midlands in the early 1980s.
“We had been hoping that they are being held by ZRP at an unknown location, but we are reliably informed that they are now being helt by the military at notorious Brady (renamed Mzilikazi) Barracks in Bulawayo.
“We note that an argument arose between the army and the police on the action to be taken, and army and Zanu PF youths insisted they should be taken to the Army Barracks to be tortured since the was no chargeable offence,” Mthwakazi spokesperson Mbonisi Gumbo said.
“It is shocking why they should beat innocent people just conveying their constitutional message to the president, if ever he is.
“This is a clear proof that Mnangagwa is unrepentant, he is as good as his former boss Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
“What shocks us is that they were not taken to the police station but to the army camp. It is confirmed today, Zimbabwe is a military State after the coup.”
Pressure group Ibetshu Likazulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo said the country will never be at peace until the Guurahundi issue was addressed.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe documented at least 3 750 killings and speculated that the actual number could be double that, or higher, since its coverage was limited to the Tsholotsho districts of Matabeleland North and the Matobo districts of Matabeleland South.
Local Ndebele put the figure between 20 000 and 30 000. In a unanimously adopted resolution in 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars estimated the death toll at 20 000.
Then National Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi countered that allegations of atrocities were part of a Zapu disinformation programme to discredit the army.
In 1992, serving Defence minister Moven Mahachi became the first Zanu PF official who publicly apologised for the execution and torture of civilians by the Fifth Brigade.
Five years later, Enos Nkala, former Defence minister, described his involvement with Gukurahundi as “eternal hell” and blamed Mugabe for having orchestrated it.
Speaking at Nkomo’s memorial service on July 2, 2000, now deposed president Robert Mugabe admitted that “thousands” had been killed during the campaign, calling it a “moment of madness.”
The Zanu PF government has said it is closed chapter.
“It is sad that the people who were expressing themselves ended up being beaten, arrested.
“World over, where there’s democracy; people must be allowed to show their feelings. It’s very easy; there will never be peace in the country as long the Gukurahundi issue is not dealt with. There’s a need to engage all stakeholders,” Fuzwayo told the Daily News.
The 1993 Mthwakazi Human Rights Restoration Movement called on “this blood-letting and blood-dripping regime to abandon its ongoing genocidal forays in Matabeleland.”
“Enough blood of the Matabele has been shed.
“Since 1983, the rivers and rivulets of Zimbabwe have become the rivers and rivulets of Matabele blood,| the group said in a damning statement.
“It is also important and crucial that the regional and continental bodies, Sadc and AU take a stand and reign in Mnangagwa and his regime instead of showering this regime with blessings while it continues violating human rights with impunity.
“The United Nations must also step in and condemn and demand the safe return of these youths to the people of Matabeleland.”
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme also took to his Facebook page to express disgust.
“President Mnangagwa is so poorly-advised.
“When you take power on a ticket of change, you don’t arrest protesters raising a pertinent issue that has not been addressed for decades.
“Instead, you seek audience with them, hear them out and explain what you are doing and planning to do about the issue,” Saungweme wrote.
“Arresting and assaulting protesters reminds us of the obvious — that Mugabe has gone but the intolerant and undemocratic system that violets human rights is still intact.
“A bad start to 2018 by Zimbabwe’s regime.”