By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Government must atone for the Gukurahundi genocide and move forward with a plan to give reparations to the victims of the crackdown, in which the army’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade killed an estimated 20 000 people, most of them from the Matabeleland region, Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) president archbishop Johannes Ndanga has said.
Describing it as “a collective sin of the nation”, Ndanga said the 1980s crackdown against Zapu rebels loyal to Joshua Nkomo, President Robert Mugabe Mugabe’s then rival, that killed 20 000 civilians, needs redress.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe documented at least 3 750 killings and speculated that the actual number could be double that, or higher, since its coverage was limited to the Tsholotsho districts of Matabeleland North and the Matobo districts of Matabeleland South.
Local people put the figure between 20 000 and 30 000. In a unanimously adopted resolution in 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars estimated the death toll at 20 000.
Then National Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi countered that allegations of atrocities were part of a Zapu disinformation programme to discredit the army.
In 1992, serving Defence minister Moven Mahachi became the first Zanu official who publicly apologised for the execution and torture of civilians by the Fifth Brigade. Five years later, Enos Nkala, former Defence minister, described his involvement with Gukurahundi as “eternal hell” and blamed Mugabe for having orchestrated it.
Speaking at Nkomo’s memorial service on July 2, 2000, Mugabe admitted that “thousands” had been killed during the campaign, calling it a “moment of madness”.
The Zanu PF government has said it was a closed chapter.
But Ndanga told journalists in Bulawayo on Wednesday: “It cannot be a closed chapter. As a church, we have to lead the way because that falls under collective sin. A collective sin is a sin of the nation where everybody is a sinner where whoever committed the sin committed it on behalf of the nation.”
Ndanga said there was need for Mugabe to be part of the redress and admit that the post-independence genocide was indeed a sin.
“So this issue of Gukurahundi need be discussed and come up with a position to say if we are going to come up with a national prayer for the nation and even the leadership within government or even the head of State has to be there and proclaim on behalf of the nation that the nation did sin against God,” he said.
Ndanga said the Gukurahundi genocide has been set as one of the topics under discussion at the church’s inaugural congress to be held here on October 27.
He said to ensure that their agenda gets government approval, they will engage Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who is in charge of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission.
Ndanga said: “We intend to set up a fund where government, together with the church they are going join hands and work out a fund where we can put that money and also campaign for that fund.” He added: “We will also see take stock to see how many families were affected by that Gukurahundi and the Gwesela era that how many people suffered because of that.”
The late Richard Gwesela was a notorious dissident who terrorised the Midlands province shortly after independence and before the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987.
“It’s a responsibility of the nation to put a redress on the matter. We cannot allow this problem to persist. We need to have a redress for the affected families to be healed,” Ndanga said. Daily News