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Malunga publishes research on Gukurahundi, explains Mnangagwa role

Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) director and top human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga has published a research paper on the 1983-7 Gukurahundi Massacres explaining the role of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Malunga described the bloodbath as a war crime committed by the Zanu-PF government in its quest to establish Shona hegemony in the country.

The Gukurahundi Massacres happened between 1983 and 1987 when the Fifth Brigade brutally led by the late Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri, crushed any resistance in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces killing an estimated 20,000 civilians.

Malunga’s newly-published research into 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities features in the African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law and is titled: The killing fields of Matebeland: An examination of the Gukurahundi genocide in Zimbabwe.

In the academic publication Malunga writes that the Gukurahandi Massacres specifically targeted the Ndebele speaking minority which the Zanu PF government conflated with ZAPU in their attempt to create a one party.

In his article, Malunga claims that senior government officials fueled ethnic tensions, leading to the escalation of the Gukurahundi massacres against the Ndebele speaking minority.

Before the escalation of the Gukurahundi Massacres, Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe stated;

“The dissident party and their dissident father are both destined not only for rejection but for utter destruction as well,” referring to late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU.

Malunga also attributes Eddison Zvobgo’s utterances during the 1980s tensions, which read “while some whites were afflicted by the “withdrawal-from-power syndrome”, on the “other side of the coin, some Ndebele Zimbabweans viewed Mugabe’s victory as an unbearable power denial” which had somehow to be reversed.” This Malunga argued was hate speech that helped fuel the massacres.

He added Mnangagwa who was the then Minister of State Security, also referred to Ndebeles as cockroaches, saying that “the campaign against dissidents can only succeed if the infrastructure that nurtures them is destroyed.”

“The dissidents were, in his words, ‘cockroaches’ and the Fifth Brigade was the ‘DDT’ brought in to eradicate them,” argues Malunga in his article.

“The inflammatory and incendiary government narrative parroted in the state media was that Ndebele villagers had willingly chosen to aid dissidents by providing food and water and that there was ‘blatant cooperation’ rather than coercion.

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“ZAPU was considered by the Fifth Brigade and the government as a Ndebele party linking the political objective of destroying ZAPU and creating a one-party state with a genocidal plan to eliminate Ndebele ZAPU supporters. Several factors demonstrate this ethnic targeting by perpetrators.

“The deliberate segregation and exclusion of Shona speakers from attacks and mass killings demonstrated a specific genocidal intent to destroy Ndebeles,” writes Malunga.

Human rights activists have been calling for justice and compensation for Gukurahundi victims for decades, but the government has consistently ignored their calls.

In August Justice minister Ziyambi ZIyambi addressing the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said the current government had no “mandate” to prosecute those who committed the atrocities after a blanket amnesty was granted on perpetrators by the then Prime Minister upon the signing of the unity accord between his party and that of once bitter rival Joshua Nkomo 1987.

Ziyambi went on to downplay the Gukurahundi Massacres describing them as disturbances in which both sides received casualties, and was settled by the 1987 political settlement.

Malungu’s new academic article criticizes Ziyambi’s assertions that the Gukurahundi massacres were disturbances through the eyes of the massacre victims

“Many victims and survivors of the Gukurahundi atrocities have reported that the atrocities were connected to an ethnic narrative and agenda.

“Victims report that in many instances they were targeted because of their ethnic identity and that the perpetrators made no secret of this underlying motive. In other instances, perpetrators referred to their Shona supremacy.

“Victims report that in all instances, villagers were forcibly gathered and addressed in Shona, not always but sometimes through an interpreter. Also, victims report being forced to sing songs in Shona all night and being beaten if they failed to do so.

“Villagers who were unable to understand or respond in Shona were targeted for killing or severe beating,” writes Malunga

“There is incontrovertible evidence that the Gukurahundi perpetrators committed acts of killing members of the Ndebele ethnic group: the Siwale massacre in which 55 people were shot dead, the Mkhonyeni massacre in which 22 people were burnt to death and some shot, the Salankomo village killings of over 12 people; the Soloboni village killings of at least 14 villagers, the Korodziba killings of 5 villagers, the Nxuma village killings of 10 villagers, the Bhumbu killing of 4 villagers, 1 villager in Sandawana village, and 3 villagers at Mbiriya village.

“The killings that occurred at Bhalagwe and the disappearance and presumption of death of the

“Silobela Eleven all constitute ‘genocide by killing’ members of the Ndebele group, prohibited by the Genocide Convention,” adds Malunga.

The Zanu PF government announced in July 2020 that it would compensate white settler farmers with US$ 3,5 billion for the land that been expropriated during the government’s chaotic land reform program in the early 2000s.

This announcement infuriated civil society and human rights organizations who believed the victims of the Gukurahundi Massacres had gotten the short end of the stick by not being compensated for their ordeal.

Malunga concluded by stating that Zimbabwe was bound by international law obligations based on treaty and customary international law obligations, and that there was an enduring international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the crimes committed during the Gukurahundi.