By Jeffrey Muvundusi
With a few months to go before the crunch harmonised elections, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has increasingly been under pressure to clear his name on the internationally-condemned Gukurahundi atrocities.
His critics, particularly the civic society and opposition political parties, have taken advantage of his lack of “arrogance” in dealing with the emotive matter, like his predecessor — Robert Mugabe.
Since he took over late last year, Mnangagwa has not blocked any event to do with Gukurahundi, a departure from Mugabe’s approach where it was taboo to bring the subject to the fore, especially in public.
So immense has been the pressure such that the push has attracted international attention.
The pressure on the local front has been for Mnangagwa to acknowledge and apologise for the post-independence political disturbances, of which he has thus far refused.
Despite him having signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill into law, an indication that he was willing to address the past as compared to Mugabe, who during his reign only managed to describe Gukurahundi as a “moment of madness”, those pushing for the redress of the matter have continued piling pressure.
With much pressure coming from Matabeleland, a region which was hard hit by the atrocities, there has been speculation that Zanu PF might struggle to win majority seats in the region.
Zanu PF swept the entire Matabeleland South province in the 2013 elections, a feat that might be difficult to repeat this time around as Mnangagwa’s alleged role in the atrocities seeks to derail his ambition of becoming an elected second president of the country.
Zapu national spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa says if Mnangagwa still wants his political career to continue, he has to address the burning Gukurahundi issue.
He indicated that the difference between Mnangagwa and Mugabe was that the latter was more feared.
“This issue has become the election question in Zimbabwe. Forget the economy; forget the rhetoric from anyone, a very unfortunate development for Mnangagwa and all those in denial about the issue.
“Only when Mnangagwa masters the courage to lead the process on redress can he fancy any chances of making headway in some constituencies,” Maphosa said.
The Zapu spokesperson added that Mugabe used to thrive on fear and intimidation, which made it a taboo for many to openly speak about Gukurahundi.
“The difference between Mnangagwa and Mugabe is that Mugabe was feared in Matabeleland, while Mnangagwa is not.
“The clean sweep that Zanu PF had in Matabeleland South in 2013 will never be repeated under Mnangagwa or anyone.
“There is serious disdain of Zanu PF in the southern provinces and they only got those seats out of fear of Mugabe,” he said.
Maphosa said if Mnangagwa had hopes of winning a seat in Matabeleland, he should endear himself with the region by instituting a truth, justice and reconciliation process to address Gukurahundi.
“The affected people need to speak out and be heard, have justice and compensation for the genocide in which Mnangagwa played a leading role.”
Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president Mqondisi Moyo described Mnangagwa as weaker than his predecessor, which is bound to herald his waterloo.
“Mnangagwa is a troubled man. He is a victim of his own actions that catapulted him to executive power. His own triumphant ‘coup’ has given confidence to opposition voices, particularly in Matabeleland,” Moyo told Southern News.
“Mnangagwa has failed to attract the same respect that Mugabe enjoyed in Zimbabwe and beyond. He has a deficit in his own posture, voice, eloquence and intellect.
“The opposing voices have taken advantage of his personal weaknesses to raise volume on the issue of Gukurahundi that is poised to cause his premature exit from the State House.
“His lack of consistence and accountability has cost him dearly,” Moyo added.
The MRP boss, who has since indicated that he will be challenging Mnangagwa in the presidential race, said the pressure being piled on the president has risen to greater heights.
He said the issue of Gukurahundi has become so topical and political that any moves by Mnangagwa to mitigate its effects are viewed with scepticism.
“Gukurahundi will taint Mnangagwa’s political life until his demise.
“The emergence of regional politics and parties like MRP, particularly in Matabeleland is adding salt to Mnangagwa’s injury as the people are pinning their hopes of finding a lasting solution through defining their own political space,” Moyo said.
Post-Independence Survival Trust leader Felix Mafa Sibanda said Mnangagwa needed to act fast in showing the people of Matabeleland that he was indeed willing to act and make peace with the affected people.
“If indeed ED (Mnangagwa) is sincere about resolving this matter, he should act with speed and show that he is not like his former boss, Mugabe who totally refused to give attention to this gruesome episode,” he said.
“There must be closure only after the ED administration has adequately resolved all grey areas.
“We are demanding absolute involvement of victims and true peace builders not appeasements by whoever,” he said.
Sibanda, however, believes the current noise about Gukurahundi is coming from organisations that are pushing their political interests and have nothing to do with peace and reconciliation.
“Gukurahundi has been a topical issue for years, but the problem is each time we head towards elections, some people start using the subject for campaigning purposes, which is now a bad habit,” he said. DailyNews