By Jacob Ngarivhume| Emerson Mnangagwa is too modest. He opened his inaugural address by suggesting that he has no particularly unique qualification to be President. But surely he cannot have forgotten the pivotal role he played in keeping Robert Mugabe and his ZANU(PF) party in power for all of 37 years. He has had a long and distinguished political career.
As Minister of State Security in the 1980s, for example, he played a crucial role in forcing Joshua Nkomo into exile and crushing ZAPU during Operation Gukurahundi. Lost are the words to describe the terror and horror suffered by tens of thousands of innocent civilians who were tortured and butchered to make Zimbabwe a de facto one-party state and grant his ‘father, mentor, comrade-in-arms’, Robert Mugabe, sweeping autocratic powers.
But the Crocodile would want us to forget this past. So he smiles and beguilingly asks us to let bygones be bygones so that we all move forward together in unity and peace. In his retelling of events, words become twisted to take on new meanings. Accountability for genocide only ‘opens old wounds’; justice becomes ‘retribution’; truths are but ‘unfounded allegations’ to divide the nation; and four years of unmitigated terror is reduced to a ‘moment of madness’. In a reinvented narrative, the Unity Accord allows mass murder to become a ‘closed chapter’, perpetrators on ‘both sides’ were granted amnesty from prosecution and, hence, no one deserves compensation. But we now know his reptilian ways only too well. So we shall not be soothed or fooled into forgetfulness, silence, and acquiescence. On the contrary, we shall remain vigilant until the day that the story of every victim, whose blood soaked the soils of Matabeleland, is told. Nor shall we rest until those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity are made known and held to account.
Mnangagwa protests his innocence. But if he had nothing to hide, why then did he urge Mugabe to suppress the Chihambakwe Commission’s report on the massacres? How can we move forward together in peace and unity before we have dealt with the violence and conflict of the past? How can we have reconciliation and healing unless the truth is revealed and justice is served? Truth and justice demand the releasing of the Chihambakwe report; inviting international forensic teams to investigate mass graves; granting survivors the right to give their loved ones dignified burials; providing compensation to survivors for their losses; bringing perpetrators to justice; and signing the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court. Therein lie the conditions for moving forward with reconciliation, healing, and building lasting peace.
With his hand on his heart, our new President pledged to serve all citizens regardless of their colour or political affiliation. This was a cynical promise from someone whose every past action speaks only of racial discrimination, intolerance, vengeance and violence. He made no apology for his party’s reign of terror to purge the opposition’s rural support base after 2000. White farms were targeted; 200,000 farm workers lost their jobs; thousands of opposition supporters were intimidated and beaten; hundreds were murdered. And who other than the cold-blooded Crocodile had the stomach to launch Operation Murambatsvina during a bitterly cold winter? What had the countless thousands who lost their homes and livelihoods done to deserve such as terrible fate? They had committed the crime of exercising their constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice.
But Mugabe greatest debt to his hatchet man was the campaign of terror to defeat the democratic will of the people – the very people Mnangagwa now claims to unite in peace. As head of JOC, Mnangagwa delayed the counting of votes that gave Tsvangirai election victory and masterminded ZANU-PF’s campaign of torture, rape, and murder during the run-off Presidential election of June 2008. Yet, as the world witnessed yet another crime against humanity, to its shame and disgrace, it did nothing. The EU turned a blind eye to the atrocities and a deaf ear to the cries of the victims of violence. They not only engaged with a dictator and a mafia regime in 2013, but they demanded that those they funded do likewise.
Kate Hoey, the British Labour MP who has campaigned for years to highlight oppression under the Mugabe regime, described Mnangagwa in a recent parliamentary debate as “probably the one person in Zimbabwe who inspires even greater terror than Mugabe.” In response, Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, said in the House of Commons, “Nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to the next.” Why then the unseemly haste of Britain’s Africa Minister, Rory Stewart, to congratulate Mnangagwa and have the IMF embargo lifted? It is a reminder that Britain and the EU, for all their sanctimonious lecturing about the rule of law, human rights and democracy, are perfectly willing to sacrifice truth, justice, and the rights of victims for peace and stability under yet another tyrant.
And to fellow Zimbabweans yearning for peace, we understand your longings and the hopes you have put in our new President. But look closely into his eyes. For there you will see only Crocodile tears for you and his hapless victims. And though he may smile, his bite is deadly.
#PullingTogether to #MakeZimbabweAJewelAgain
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