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for justice 20 years after massacre
January 16, 2007
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's
former minister of information and publicity, Jonathan Moyo, intends
to move a bill seeking to provide justice for the massacre of more
than 20,000 members of the minority Ndebele ethnic group by Zimbabwean
security forces nearly 20 years ago.
have been dismissive of the proposed bill, citing the fact that
it came from a former ally of President Robert Mugabe who was sacked
in 2005 for his role in organising resistance to Mugabe's succession
plans. They have also said the bill threatened to undo a peace accord
signed in 1987 to end a five-year reign of terror in the southern
provinces of Midlands and Matabeleland by Zimbabwean soldiers of
Five Brigade, who were trained by North Korea.
meaning 'the first rains of the season which wash away all the chaff'
in the Shona language, was the name given to the operation that
began two years after Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain
in 1980, following the liberation war against the white minority
government of Ian Smith.
The main opposition
groups fighting the war against Smith's government were the late
Joshua Nkomo's PF-ZAPU, which drew most of its support from the
Ndebele people in southwestern Zimbabwe, and Mugabe's ZANU, whose
cadres were mainly drawn from the majority Shona people in the north.
condemned internationally for the violence it unleashed for five
years on mainly rural Ndebele between 1982 and 1987, ended when
the Unity Accord was signed and the two political parties merged
under the banner of ZANU-PF.
Called the Gukurahundi
Memorial Bill, the proposed legislation intends to criminalise denial
of the campaign. It will also advocate for a memorial to those killed,
and the establishment of a fund to compensate those affected by
Moyo, an abrasive
defender of the Mugabe regime before 2005, told IRIN that contrary
to government accusations that he was seeking to polarise the country
along ethnic lines, he wanted to record an accurate account of the
country's history and open avenues of redress for those who had
not be ashamed of recording the past, because it is our history
whether we like to hear about it or not. The episode affected our
people in many ways, and they remain victims up to this day because
they have not been helped out of the stagnation of development that
came as a result of that war."
Moyo, who is
also the MP for Tsholotsho, a district that bore the brunt of Gukurahundi
operations in Matabeleland North, said, "The perpetrators may
not need it, but the victims, including thousands in my constituency,
still want an apology, if not justice."
and former PF-ZAPU leaders in Matabeleland have pleaded with people
to ignore the bill, dismissing it as motivated by Moyo's desire
to revive his waning political fortunes rather than a pursuit of
chairman John Nkomo, a former PF-ZAPU leader who is also the Speaker
of Parliament, told IRIN that no one has ever denied the existence
of Gukurahundi, but said Moyo's bill would reopen "old wounds"
healed by the Unity Accord.
Mugabe has acknowledged Gukurahundi as a time of madness, which
must never be repeated, so that means government is in a position
to redress what happened then without having to be bound by any
bills," Nkomo said.
be careful when handling such issues because they affect the national
unity symbolised by the unification of ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU into
the united ZANU-PF we have today. Gukurahundi has always been steeped
in tribal overtones pitting the Ndebele against the Shona, and no
one wants to revisit such a divisive era."
admitted that underdevelopment in the Midlands and Matabeleland
regions could be linked to the post-independence state of emergency
that was only lifted in 1990, Nkomo said there was no deliberate
government ploy to marginalise the provinces. "Government is
doing all it can to develop Matabeleland - many programmes are lagging
behind because of a nationwide lack of funding. I am sure a way
will be found to address those problems."
a former PF-ZAPU leader who held various ministerial portfolios
in the post-unity government, told IRIN that although Gukurahundi
was an undeniable reality, the Unity Accord had provided an amnesty
and national reconciliation without prosecution for both sides.
who were supposed to have been taken to court were not taken to
court. The Unity Accord was signed so that we should move forward,
but Moyo seeks to take us back to that era and that is divisive,"
views have been overshadowed by a surge of public support for Moyo's
bill in the Matabeleland regions, where most of the victims live.
from the region have applauded Moyo's initiative as a necessary
contribution to a subject long considered taboo; many have said
the bill was necessary to remove the veil of silence on the massacres,
while others reasoned that it would expose the perpetrators and
ensure that justice for the victims was not sacrificed for the sake
of national unity.
looks at the record of government on Gukurahundi, there has been
no formal apology or clear acknowledgment of this sad chapter,"
said Progress Ngwenya, a political and human rights activist with
the Post Independence Survivors Trust, a nongovernmental organisation
(NGO) advocating for justice for the victims of the Gukurahundi
operation based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, in
to hear many reckless statements from senior government officials
celebrating this dirty episode as a justified military exercise.
With the bill like the one Moyo is proposing, these people can be
a political commentator and government critic, said Moyo's bill
did not pose a threat to unity but to the "unrepentant"
perpetrators. "The perpetrators have not apologised or shown
any remorse. Gukurahundi will not be forgotten because the victims
are still suffering the many effects of mass human slaughter. Many
who lost their parents do not have birth or national identity cards,
so they cannot go to school. The correction of the development imbalances
which resulted from the era remains pending."
that the Mugabe regime remained unrepentant about Gukurahundi, commentators
have cited a recent comment by ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira,
who said government did not regret the killings because they happened
during a legitimate state security operation.
Robert Mugabe acknowledged in 1999 that soldiers sent to fight a
PF-ZAPU dissident insurgency "went beyond limits" by killing
innocent civilians. "We had differences and engaged in a reckless,
unprincipled fight within ourselves. It was an act of madness; we
killed each other; we destroyed each other's property," Mugabe
said at a memorial service for former vice-president and PF-ZAPU
leader Joshua Nkomo.
has consistently refused to publicise the findings of the 1983 Chihambakwe
Commission, appointed by Mugabe to investigate allegations of civilian
massacres. The commission was headed by Justice Chihambakwe, then
a High Court judge. The findings of another probe, led the following
year by retired judge Enock Dumbutshena, were also not released.
a report compiled in 1997 by the Catholic
Commission for Justice and Peace, a faith-based NGO, more that
20,000 civilians, mainly PF-ZAPU supporters, were killed by security
forces during the operation. The report, 'Breaking the Silence,
Building True Peace', recorded official statements that had allegedly
fanned the killings, and provided evidence of mass graves and the
location of mine shafts where bodies had been thrown.
The report recommended
a national reconciliation process, a proper burial for the victims
and compensation packages for those affected, with accelerated development
for the affected regions of the southwest.
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