WHEN former president Robert Mugabe was swept away through a popular coup, the world celebrated the departure of an “evil dictator”.
Many hoped for a fresh start but that dream remains elusive for victims of Gukurahundi, a dark phase in the country’s history when an estimated 20 000 people were killed.
So far President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who kicked out
Mugabe from power, has refused to apologise for the killings even as his allies open up old wounds and pin all the blame on his mentor.
Recently, deputy minister of Defence, one of Mnangagwa’s top allies, Victor Matemadanda blamed the massacres on Mugabe’s shoulders, but new documents and historical narratives point out that the Zanu PF leader was just as complicit.
Recently, declassified diplomatic cables by the United States’ State department have pinned Mnangagwa and Zanu PF for the Gukurahundi atrocities.
The authoritative voice on Gukurahundi comes from the Catholic Commission for Peace and Reconciliation which in a 1999 report put the death toll up to 20 000 although ruling party officials dispute the figure.
But still, Mnangagwa who has promised a break from the past when he was assisted to ascend to the presidency by the military, prefers to keep the past buried.
Mnangagwa has refused to apologise over the atrocities which saw a government militia killing people mostly in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions saying “he cannot change the past”.
His name features prominently in that past.
In the latest cables, Mnangagwa who was then State Security minister is quoted vowing to crush the dissidents so as to rid the country of people who were bent on causing anarchy in the country.
In May 1983, the then Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe Bo Heinback discussed the situation in the southern part of the country with the late Nathan Shamuyarira, who was back then the minister of Information.
“Heinback said a committee of five persons representing twelve private voluntary organisations active in Zimbabwe had met with Mugabe on March 3 and had presented a full catalogue of Fifth Brigade atrocities. Mugabe had with him ministers Mnangagwa, (Sydney Sekeramayi and (the late Hebert) Ushewokunze. The PVO people found Mugabe’s response less than satisfactory, as he recounted at length the history of Zanu-Zapu relations In effect to justify current policies,” reads part of the cables.
The cables further revealed that Mnangagwa had information that Zapu leaders, although they were denying any connections to the dissidents, secretly supported them.
“During a cordial one hour courtesy call by Ambassador Miller on minister of State Security Emmerson Mnangagwa on June 18, Mnangagwa volunteered to be informal channel on important foreign affairs questions. He also castigated Zapu officials for publicly decrying dissident actions, but privately continuing their support to dissidents, implying that the government would continue and possibly extend its anti-Zanu PF activities,” read the cables.
Mnangagwa was quoted in the cables saying these Zapu networks in the countryside “have existed forever” and they have to be exposed and “cleaned out. It is our duty to protect citizens and overall national security, regardless of what others think”.
Although countries like the US turned a blind eye, they were concerned with the way government was banning Zapu activities and raised concerns in the cables.
Mnangagwa and his apologists have refused to take the blame for the sad chapter in the country’s history placing the blame on the shoulders of Mugabe.
Matemadanda, who is also the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, claimed that Mnangagwa played no role in the Gukurahundi.
Addressing a press conference early this week Matemadanda blasted Mugabe who stirred a hornet’s nest last month when he accused Mnangagwa of using soldiers to kill innocent civilians.
“Even though you may want to forgive the old man I do not think he deserves forgiveness because surely how can Mugabe have the audacity to tell Mnangagwa not to kill when he is the specialist in that area.
“We survived by fleeing this country, Mnangagwa himself escaped death by a whisker, Mugabe is the known and approved killer, I think he should have said you are taking my job.
“I once went to Matabeleland told chiefs to take cattle from Gushungo Dairies for him to appease the spirits of those he killed during the Gukurahundi; this is what is making Mugabe lose his senses,” said Matemadanda.
However, the man who dispatched Mnangagwa back in the 1980s insists his henchman was the one who went after the “dissidents”.
“… You know he (Emmerson Mnangagwa or ED) was the minister of Intelligence, he’s the one with Stannard, the two of them, who led that (arms caches findings) and who even led Gukurahundi. I know one of the vehicles, (then Zapu/Zipra intelligence chief) Dabengwa’s vehicle, which they blasted, they said he’s carrying arms,” said Mugabe.
In his own words as captured by the State media, Mnangagwa said “Likening the dissidents to cockroaches and bugs, the minister said the bandit menace had reached such epidemic proportion that the government had to bring ‘DDT’ (pesticide) to get rid of the bandits.”
“In yet another speech captured by the State media Mnangagwa who often quotes the bible said “blessed are they who will follow the path of the government laws, for their days on earth will be increased. But woe unto those who will choose the path of collaboration with dissidents for we will certainly shorten their stay on Earth.”’
Matemadanda’s attempts to exonerate Mugabe’s successor and former henchman Mnangagwa drew brickbats from the likes of former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo who revealed that he used his time in government to gather information on those who were involved in the massacres.
Moyo, a former politburo member, now living in self-exile revealed on micro-blogging platform twitter that he used his time in government to gather information about Gukurahundi.
“Only fools think we didn’t access critical information on Gukurahundi when we were in government. A lot of critical information (including dockets) was collected and secured from 13 to 30 November 2017. Gukurahundi is so well-documented that the truth is known,” said Moyo.
While Matemadanda portrayed Mugabe as the arch-villain and mastermind of the brutalities that targeted supporters of Zapu led by the late Joshua Nkomo, Moyo said the director of the whole episode was Mnangagwa, who was back then the minister of State Security in charge of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
“The deadliest force in the #Gukurahundi atrocities was the CIO, the lead. Directed by Mnangagwa, who administered the State of Emergency Act & liaised with exRhodie & apartheid killers, the CIO gathered ‘intelligence’ through barbaric torture and murder on an industrial scale,” said Moyo.