Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Mphoko claims Mugabe government to rebury Gukurahundi victims

By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |

With President Robert Mugabe away on a shady “official” visit to Malaysia, his deputy who is acting head of State in his absence, Phelekezela Mphoko, has claimed that government will rebury the remains of thousands of people who were killed during the 1980s massacres dubbed Gukurahundi.

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko

Mugabe in 1982, two years after independence from colonial rule, unleashed a crack North Korean-trained army on southern Zimbabwe, claiming that his government had intelligence of a looming military insurgency led by the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (PF-Zapu).

While the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) acknowledged that there was a small band of disgruntled Zapu members who had turned themselves into dissidents, Mugabe’s security agents went to kill some 20,000 mostly innocent villagers.

Most of them were buried in shallow graves and have not been given proper reburial for fear of reprisal from the security sector which feels that doing so would cause civil instability on mostly tribal lines.

Mphoko, however, surprised many on Monday when he said government would go ahead and rebury those remains in a condolence message to the family of Cyril Ndebele, the former Speaker of Parliament who passed away last week.

“The government is working on modalities of healing the wounds of the disturbances experienced in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands provinces in the 1980s by ensuring that all victims are identified and given decent burial,” said Mphoko.

He added that the government would facilitate birth certificates for the children of the victims of Gukurahundi.

The children he referred to are at least 29 now, as the massacres ended in 1987 when PF-Zapu merged with Zanu PF.

Mugabe has refused to apologise for the five-year Gukurahundi atrocities that he has referred to as a “moment of madness”.

While his party merged with PF-Zapu under a unity accord, the Mugabe government leadership has continuously been dominated by people from central, eastern and northern Zimbabwean.

Former PF-Zapu leaders largely play ceremonial roles in almost all executive departments, among them cabinet, the military and security as well as the judiciary.

This makes unlikely that Mugabe would accede to the reburial of Gukurahundi victims en masse, and Mphoko’s statements could cause friction with the 92-year-old leader when he returns from his Malaysia trip.

Continued reference to the massacres is likely to cause Mugabe discomfort as he was the executive prime minister in the Gukurahundi period and ordered the military crackdown.

Ndebele spectacularly fell out of favour with Mugabe when he issued a parliamentary certificate advising Zanu PF that it should not discipline then ruling party Masvingo chairperson Dzikamai Mavhaire for asking Mugabe to step down.

Mugabe called Ndebele a traitor and replaced him in 2000 with now Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Nehanda Radio

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