‘Mugabe not sorely to blame for Gukurahundi’
By Maxwell Sibanda
Former president Robert Mugabe is not solely responsible for the infamous Gukurahundi disturbances in Matabeleland and Midlands that saw an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians butchered by the North Korea-trained 5th Brigade, analysts contend.
The analysts were responding to pronouncements by war veterans secretary-general and Zanu PF politburo member Victor Matemadanda who told a meeting of war veterans, ex-detainees, war collaborators, widowers, widows and children of war veterans at Stanley Square in Makokoba, Bulawayo over the weekend that Mugabe’s properties should be seized and sold to compensate victims of that period.
Matemadanda said Mugabe made an individual decision during the disturbances as he was the commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
“As the commander-in-chief, these issues that are coming up now about (Gukurahundi) are all a political gimmick. These are just political games, the person answerable before death is Robert Mugabe.
“Even the commanders that were deployed were working under his instruction, as the commander-in-chief, because he is the one who instigates and authorises any instructions to do with the welfare of the nation,” said Matemadanda. “We need to engage and finish it off while Mugabe is still alive….”
Controversial playwright Cont Mhlanga, however, said it was not fair to say Mugabe was solely responsible for Gukurahundi as he did not go across homesteads in villages in Mashonaland West, Midlands, Matabeleland South and North killing children and women single-handedly by himself.
“How does Matemadanda come to that conclusion in the absence of any public hearing or court trial of Mugabe?
“What is correct is that Mugabe must take the lead in the Gukurahundi national healing dialogue because he was head of government and head of the ruling party at the time.
“In his own words he presided over the moment of madness and is the one who knows the contents of all Gukurahundi reports. It is just trivialising Gukurahundi to have everyone speak about it before listening to what Mugabe has to say about that moment of madness in front of those who still carry the bleeding Gukurahundi wounds and traumatising memories and not for him to speak his opinions to the media like he did on SABC,” said Mhlanga.
Media and social analyst Rashweat Mukundu says Matemadanda is offside on this issue as Gukurahundi was a collective action by the government of Zimbabwe.
“All leaders from Mugabe downwards that hierarchy is to blame. And reconciliation must be for the benefit of victims not a vengeful act targeting either Mugabe or anyone.
“Victims want the truth, they want closure, they want an apology, and they want restoration and compensation for their destroyed property and lives.
“These are issues that the government must focus on. Victims can speak for themselves and not through any organised groups be it Mthwakazi, Zapu, Zanu PF or Non-Governmental Organisations.
“Let the NPRC body go and talk to the people directly and hear their views and issues on this matter,” said Mukundu.
Social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said: “This is extreme politicking and buck passing. Matemadanda is on a campaign mode. Liability and culpability for Gukurahundi is collective.
“The paint brush of criminal blame must roll over Mnangagwa, (Perrance) Shiri, (Solomon) Mujuru and (Robert) Mugabe. Anything less is institutionalised denialism.”
Crisis Coalition spokesperson Tabani Moyo believes that was a convenient pronouncement.
“We know very well this was a government organised process. It was systematic and executed in a manner that no single person can fathom to undertake.
“Matemadanda is playing very selfish and narrow politics on a very sensitive matter.
“The majority of the perpetrators are still alive and went on to further commit additional acts of crimes against humanity as they got further entrenched in the trappings of government.
“Surely this blame shifting game is misplaced and not appropriate for Zimbabwe at this time and moment, when the country yearns for a responsible, adept, agile and competitive leadership to leap frog the country into sustainable obits of development,” said Moyo.
Analyst Zenzele Ndebele said Matemadanda is trying to rewrite history. “We all know Gukurahundi was established by Zanu PF, so it was not Mugabe’s decision alone.
“People like Mnangagwa were actively involved in Gukurahundi — these guys should take responsibility for their actions and apologise.”
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said with due respect to his participation in the liberation war, Matemadanda is being dishonest here.
“Mugabe had advisors on defence and security during the Gukurahundi, who could have helped him make decisions. But it has become fashionable in the so-called new dispensation to heap just about every dirt solely on Mugabe.
“Such an approach is obviously dishonest and would stifle efforts at truth-telling, national healing and reconciliation. It is unthinkable that a single person can have accomplished so much damage and the idea that some people simply followed orders is not sincere.
“From some records of that time, including in the media, there are people who even made statements that appeared to endorse and even encourage the various acts.
“It is a wrong that happened and people must collectively face it. The issue requires that our accounts of the past must be honest,” said Gwede.
Deputy president to Thokozani Khupe’s MDC faction, Obert Gutu said Gukurahundi was a genocide, a crime against humanity that shouldn’t be treated lightly.
“There is need for closure regarding this very unfortunate and tragic episode of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history. Of course, as the head of government at the relevant time, Mugabe can’t escape liability for the genocide that was Gukurahundi.
“However, we need a more holistic and systematic approach of bringing closure to this issue. First and foremost, the Chihambakwe Commission of Inquiry report into Gukurahundi must be made public. We can’t run away from history.
“In fact, we can’t hide behind a finger and foolishly claim that let bygones be bygones. There should be truth and reconciliation if the ghost of Gukurahundi is to be laid to rest.
“There’s need for the perpetrators of Gukurahundi to publicly own up and seek forgiveness from the victims. In addition, there’s also need for the victims to be adequately compensated by the State. Only then can there be complete closure on the Gukurahundi genocide,” said Gutu.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the remark or pronouncement by Matemadanda shows that he is very naïve, guileless, vacuous and fatuous.
“Gukurahundi was a state-sponsored genocide against Ndebeles and we must call it by its real name.
“So Mugabe, current administration and future administrations of Zimbabwe are responsible and must take responsibility.
“Running a country and perpetrating such atrocities does not reduce someone to a situation of a sole proprietorship business.
“Individuals such as Mugabe and Mnangagwa who were at the helm of this, must account for Gukurahundi and the Zimbabwe government, must account whether it’s under Mnangagwa’s false new dispensation or a future government by opposition.
“The government of the day remains responsible for this genocide and must take measures to ensure victims find closure, truth is said, justice is done, perpetrators are brought to book and compensation is paid to those affected. It’s politically rash to wish this away or thinking Mugabe will be buried with this,” said Saungweme.
Political analysts MacDonald Lewanika said Matemadanda is right that the head of state at that time (Mugabe) should take responsibility because the buck does stop with him.
“But to say that he is solely responsible is fundamental leadership attribution error. Gukurahundi was not an individual escapade in a moment of madness it was a calculated state action meant to exterminate perceived enemies of the state.
“The state and those who were presiding over it including the current President (Mnangagwa) and his leadership were complicit and should also own up.
“In governance there is something called continuity of the state, as such the state today should still take responsibility and compensate victims.
“Those who may be personally liable like the former and current head of state should also be held to account for their roles and either be punished or forgiven depending on the process the country takes in addressing this dark chapter,” said Lewanika.