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‘It’s about the system not Mnangagwa’ – Malunga on Gukurahundi

Top human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga said the resolution of Gukurahundi issue needed a comprehensive approach where the system of the day (Zanu-PF) need to come in the open, taking responsibility and accountability for the genocide that it orchestrated in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

The Gukurahundi Massacres claimed an estimated 20 000 innocent lives in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga recently claimed that the government was seized with the issue and “a solution will be found as we are all Zimbabweans”.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa claims to have been engaging traditional leaders in a series of discussions on Gukurahundi since 2019, and he has appointed the chiefs to take the lead in resolving the genocide.

He opened dialogue on the emotive subject, appointing a team of chiefs to lead the healing process but like his predecessor, the late former President Robert Mugabe, he has not offered any apology for the mass killings.

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The genocide happened when Mnangagwa was the Minister of State Security.

Addressing a public lecture this week, Malunga, a director for Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) said the issue needed to be addressed in the context of a system and not individuals.

He added that, it was necessary to identify the system that orchestrated the genocide and not cite individuals who were only involved in that particular system.

“We’re talking about genocide and crimes against humanity. That’s the seriousness of the gravity. We’re talking about a system that committed crimes, not Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“It’s easy, you can say Emmerson Mnangagwa because he is there now. Right, everybody is also gone now, Mugabe. Who is the system and in unpacking it let the system take responsibility,” Malunga said.

“They did this under the guise of destroying ZAPU. They killed Ndebeles. They failed to distinguish who is a ZAPU supporter. Anybody who was a ZAPU supporter in Matebeleland was deemed.

“Consequently, the system took this decision. Not Shonas, the system in power and we must differentiate this as well and the law does. And the system must take responsibility and accountability for that. Because there were people who were sitting in villages in Muzarabani who didn’t know what was happening.”

Malunga added that the role of the traditional leaders was to facilitate documentation of the process.

“For the first time there maybe an opportunity for people who had never had the opportunity to speak, to speak and for the chiefs to hear them and to document their stories, pain and loss.

“That is the beginning of the process. So the chiefs are not going to resolve Gukurahundi, they are going to facilitate the resolution of Gukurahundi.

“The chiefs are not going to say, ‘okay so your father was killed, fine I have resolved the issue. You can go home now’. Instead they are going to say, ‘from my village, I have 400 people who lost relatives.

“These are the people they lost. These are the homesteads they lost. These are the livestock they lost. This is the suffering they are enduring’. That is the documentation of the process,” he said.

Gukurahundi happened during the early reign of Mugabe and it was allegedly aimed at crushing any resistance in Matabeleland and Midlands.

Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) supporters were the immediate victims. But thousands of innocent souls died in cold blood after the deployment of the notorious Firth Brigade which was led by late former Agriculture Minister Perence Shiri.

Gukurahundi is the code-name for the Fifth Brigade, an elite unit of specially trained Zimbabwean soldiers which was deployed in Matabeleland and Midlands leading to the genocide.

Chief Mathema of Gwanda last week revealed that Mnangagwa’s administration recommended changing the name ‘Gukurahundi’ during a meeting in the Bulawayo State House, describing it as an attempt to ‘whitewash’ the State’s genocide.

But the chiefs rejected it.

“There was a situation we had in the meeting. We were told to change the name Gukurahundi. It was supposed to be given another name.

“As Matabeleland chiefs we rejected it. Someone provided another name; this divided the house and the rest of us chiefs rejected that. It is still Gukurahundi,” he said.

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