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‘Accomplice’ Nyarota hammered for downplaying Gukurahundi Massacres

By Nyashadzashe Ndoro | Nehanda Politics |

Former journalist Geoffrey Nyarota has bizarrely downplayed the Gukurahundi Massacres in the 1980’s, choosing instead to magnify the killings that occurred during the Second Chimurenga.

Founding editor of the Daily News, Geoffrey Nyarota
Founding editor of the Daily News, Geoffrey Nyarota

Nyarota is arguably known for exposing the Willowgate Scandal in 1987, where corrupt cabinet ministers were buying discounted vehicles from the state owned Willowvale Motor Industries and then selling them at inflated prices.

He is also known for allegedly covering up the Gukurahundi Massacres that happened between 1983 and 1987 when the Fifth Brigade brutally crushed any resistance in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces killing an estimated 20,000 civilians.

He was one of the editors of the Chronicle newspaper and is accused by critics of writing propaganda and dismissing the genocide stories that were run by foreign and private media.

Gukurahundi is most simply translated as “the rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.”

In a conversation with NewsDay publisher Trevor Ncube, Nyarota claimed that there was dispute on the magnitude of the quantity of victims of Gukurahundi, proposing “why don’t we put a project together that goes around all the affected villages listing the names of people who disappeared. It is a big thing and I think this country needs it.”

Nyarota astonishingly went on to sensationally insinuate that the war of liberation was bigger than the Gukurahundi.

“Mind you, we had another war before Gukurahundi, thousands of people were killed during the war of liberation. I don’t hear anybody say anything about it but I can assure you that if you go down to my village they will tell you in 1977 Sekuru Mwanandinaye and his wife and their granddaughter were thrown into their house and it was set alight. They died there,” he said.

Zenzele Ndebele a Bulawayo-based journalist, filmmaker, entrepreneur and human rights activist said it was unfair for Nyarota to compare the liberation struggle, a war, with Gukurahundi which was a genocide.

Ndebele, however, noted that Nyarota was one of the perpetrators of the genocide because he was an editor of a newspaper, Chronicle, that was spreading propaganda trying to sanitise the killings of behalf of then President Robert Mugabe.

“Geoffrey Nyarota is an accomplice when it comes to Gukurahundi, so comments are expected. You cannot compare the liberation struggle and Gukurahundi. Gukurahundi was was not a war, it was a genocide.

“The government was killing innocent, unarmed civilians aided by Geoffrey Nyarota, Bill Saidi and the other guys who were editors for the Chronicle who covered up for the genocide.

“During those days, when Nyarota was the editor, they had two columns. The other one was ‘a view from Matopo’ which was penned by someone called Muchandida Madoda, it’s like saying, ‘you will like me even if you don’t like me’.

“One time they had a headline which was written ‘excited about the five’, the five referring to the Fifth Brigade,” Ndebele said.

“So what do you expect from someone who was excited about the Fifth Brigade. Someone who was excited by the fact that the Fifth Brigade was massacring people. Someone who at the helm of the genocide was actually helping the state to deny that people were being killed.

“If you got the Chronicle files and headlines by then, there are lots of headlines that talk about ‘no genocide, no atrocities happening, foreign media is lying and all those kind of things. Geoffrey is not different from the Fifth Brigade soldiers and their commanders. If those people are to be prosecuted, Geoffrey will be in the dock as well answering questions on killing people.”

Prominent researcher Tjenesani Ntungakwa said Nyarota lacked full appreciation of the political environment that was there during time of the genocide.

“Nyarota negates the fact that those who died during the periods he mentioned fell in a process of trying to remove Rhodesian settler colonialism. It was a struggle which gained momentum to a nationalist and armed character, the likes of NDP ZAPU ZANU etc.

“Thus there was no justification for a civil mass slaughter of Zimbabweans at the hands of their own countrymen. I fortunately got a copy of Nyarota’s comment in the Editorial of the Chronicle of 18 June 1982; ‘The army must continue to hit and hit harder for peace to prevail in Matabeleland’.

“Such was the insightful character of the State Media at that time of which Nyarota was part. He possibly might have even lacked a full understanding of the prevailing political atmosphere at that time.

“However he put his name into a mess that he should seek more information on the Gukurahundi matter instead of making reckless and nationally damaging comments,” he said.

Political activist Pride Mkono said: “Gukurahundi was not a war, it was a genocide. His attempt to try and cover it up only shows and betrays his conduct which is obviously unacceptable.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was state security minister at the time of the killings. Nehanda Radio

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