By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Defiant Matabeleland chiefs Vezi Maduna and Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni have escalated their row with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government — this time demanding the appointment of an independent probe into the Gukurahundi atrocities of the early 1980s, the Daily News can report.
This is despite the fact that Mnangagwa has since operationalised the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), to lead consultations with chiefs from the Matabeleland region about the emotive matter.
This comes after the outspoken traditional leaders paid a courtesy call on opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in Harare last week, days after Maduna had raised fears over his safety following his claims of being trailed by suspected State security agents.
In a letter addressed to Zanu PF national chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Maduna and Ndiweni have now, not only taken aim at Mnangagwa again, but also demand the appointment of an independent commission to probe all Gukurahundi deaths.
“The letter serves to inform you as the national chairperson of the ruling party Zanu PF that on behalf of the … genocide victims of 1981-87, we the Ndebele chiefs have written to the United Nations (UN) secretary- general to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate this genocide and to bring perpetrators of it to book.
“As you are aware, the genocide was well planned and implemented by government, so we cannot expect the same government to investigate itself,” Maduna and Ndiweni said in their letter.
“There is still a window of opportunity to this issue. However, silence and inaction by the government and your Zanu PF will not stop the actions that have been initiated in the international arena,” the chiefs added.
Maduna recently threw the cat among the pigeons when he wrote an earlier letter to the UN, appealing for the powerful global body to get involved in the emotive Gukurahundi issue.
The outspoken chief later got support from his counterpart Ndiweni, who has also consistently attacked the government over the unresolved Gukurahundi issue.
“We write requesting an independent commission of inquiry be set up to investigate atrocities which occurred in Matabeleland and Midlands in Zimbabwe … between 1981 and 1987 … after the country gained independence from Britain.
“The atrocities escalated into genocide occasioned by an ethnic cleansing agenda targeting the Ndebele people in the western and central parts of the country,” Maduna said in his earlier letter to UN secretary- general Antonio Guterres.
The letter was also copied to Amnesty International, the African Union, Sadc and the European Union (EU) Parliament, among others.
An estimated 20 000 people are said to have been killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces when the government deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to the two regions, to fight an insurrection.
Unity Day was subsequently set up to commemorate the Unity Accord which was later signed between Zapu and Zanu on December 22, 1987, and which ended hostilities between the two parties.
Mnangagwa, who served as ousted former president Robert Mugabe’s right-hand man for nearly 54 years, last year operationalised the NPRC as part of his efforts to address unresolved national issues such as the Gukurahundi atrocities.
During his maiden appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year, Mnangagwa said the government was keen to address the atrocities.
“What can we do about the past? We have put up a commission (NPRC) to deal with that issue (Gukurahundi), that should not stop us from having a better future where all the communities should be united, should co-operate, should love each other, should work together.
“This is the message which we have. We are more worried now about how in the future we should have a united Zimbabwe.
“Let me assure you that just recently I had a meeting with chiefs from Matabeleland, discussing with them, because I feel there is that bad patch in our history and we would want to correct it.
“We would want to say whatever wrong was committed we must say, the government of the day must apologise,” Mnangagwa said. DailyNews