War veterans miss golden opportunities to demonstrate remorse

It takes a real man to say sorry and accept responsibility for the wrong you have done, especially wrong done to your very own people. This is more than I can say for Douglas Mahiya after reading his interview with The Standard of 7 August 2016 published under the heading “Mahiya shoots from the hip”.

Source: War veterans miss golden opportunities to demonstrate remorse – The Zimbabwean 19.08.2016

I take issue with a number of the things said in that interview but his responses to the following questions are what struck me most and continue to worry me.

RC: Would you want to apologise for having allowed the situation to come to this?

DM: We would rather request the people to appreciate the efforts that brought independence. If we made mistakes, it was in the process of trying to do something.
We lost the most important part of our life to bring independence. What is important is to embrace each other and move forward.

RC: Given what has happened in the past 36 years, why should Zimbabweans trust you now, given war veterans’ hand in rights abuses?

DM: It was not the war veterans but the government.

His responses are worrying. Firstly, he was not prepared to apologise for the war veterans’ role in the pain that they inflicted on the people starting in 2000 until recently in 2008 when people died for voting against Mugabe. In his words, he would rather request the people to appreciate war veterans’ efforts and the time they lost in bringing about independence. Secondly, he does not acknowledge that they made mistakes. Rather he says, if mistakes were made, they were not worth an apology because the war veterans were trying to do something – whatever that means. Thirdly, he goes further to deny they were involved in any abuse of human rights. He says the blame should go to the government for all the human rights abuse they committed and not to the war veterans.

I am left wondering why the war veterans have made an about turn against Mugabe if they do not accept they had lost their way and had drifted away from the people. Alternatively, is it that Mugabe has cast them out in the cold and their interests are at stake in which event that has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to be on the side of the people? If the people reject them for what they did will they not go back to ZANU PF? Where will they go if they cannot go back to Mugabe?

Let me say it is appalling for the war veterans to continue to demonstrate the same spirit that has brought us as a country where we are today. Their spirit of entitlement, their lack of accountability and their attitude that they did more than everyone else to liberate this country cannot be tolerated. As a fellow comrade I have stuck to our spirit of constructive criticism — the war veterans know what I mean. Mahiya could have done the right thing by accepting responsibility at least on behalf of the war vets and apologise rather than glorify himself for the role we played in the struggle. He forgets that, although we were holding guns, the people themselves were often in much more danger every day while we stayed under cover in the mountains sometimes sleeping waiting for information and food from these same people. The people were doing the patrols and feeding us comrades with food and information that was vital for the prosecution of the war. Everybody had a role to play and for Mahiya to glorify the role of war veterans above that of the people who have since suffered even more at the hands of war veterans is vainglorious and unacceptable. For the war veterans the chaotic land reform programme was not on their head but was the fault of the Government. The collapse of the rule of law when they invaded the Supreme Court was the fault of the Government.  I think Mahiya needs to tell us who gave them the assignments to do the terrible things that they have done to our people. Accountability is important if they are ever to be trusted ever again.

Mahiya maintained his stance in an interview with Violet Gonda on 13 August 2016.

GONDA: I think some people will disagree with you. It is important to talk about the past because we learn from this and not  be repeated in the future. There are also calls from many, like exiled judge of the High Court Justice Benjamin Paradza, who say you need to ‘publicly and sincerely apologise for the shameful roles your group  played in bringing misery to Zimbabweans over the years.’ What’s your response to this?

Mahiya: Well if people are more concerned about an apology than a progressive position that will save our people then that is quite different. As long as I am convinced that these things were done by people who were not war vets, or who went about calling themselves war veterans – such an apology will be done simply to be together with the masses. Because we know the majority of the masses and the international community in general are more important to us than the current leadership in the country.

Mahiya is saying that all the people who died at the war veterans’ hands in the land reform chaos and in 2008 do not really matter. They do not even deserve an apology from the war veterans let alone acknowledgment. So what right do the war veterans have to claim a special relationship with the people when you cannot even apologise for killing their children or their fathers? One starts to wonder which people the war veterans are talking about when they say they will simply go back to the people and persuade them to realise how much they had done for Zimbabwe. Is it really that easy to just go to the people and expect them to accept you? I cannot help but feel that the talk of going back to the people is just talk and the people are those they have worked when they voted for the MDC in 2008 and before.

The big question is that, although we need every citizen to dislodge ZANU PF in 2018, can we really trust the war veterans as a constituency that have truly repented? They lost golden opportunities to apologise to the people on 7 August, and again on 13 August, and those opportunities are now gone. I hope they will find some other way to convince the people they mean what they say and that they are sincerely remorseful.

Justice Benjamin Paradza

Exiled Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe

President of ZUNDE


  • comment-avatar
    Tiger Shona 6 years ago

    Because of their greed, a lot of crimes from them have been committed towards Zimbabweans.
    We don’t need them no more.