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Dabengwa in angry bust up with rowdy youths at Gukurahundi indaba

12/01/2018 00:00:00
by Staff reporter
 
Stood his ground ... human rights lawyer, Sipho Malunga
 
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ZAPU president and co-panelist during Thursday's SAPES policy dialogue, Dumiso Dabengwa was forced to angrily leave his seat in the middle of a presentation by a colleague to confront half a dozen youths led by former ZINASU President Tafadzwa Mugwadi who were disrupting the high profile event.

The discussion was titled "Gukurahundi, towards a national dialogue".

Other panelists were South African academic and author Elinor Sisulu, top rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga and Martin Rupiya, executive director with the African Public Policy and Research Institute.

Sisulu was first to speak but was later forced to end her presentation prematurely when the youths challenged her to stop lecturing on Zimbabwean affairs when she actually came from a society known for lynching foreigners in broad daylight through xenophobic attacks.

The youths also reacted angrily to her comments when she praised South African media for maintaining government pressure on the 2012 Marikana shootings in which State police shot and killed 34 striking miners, as opposed to the Zimbabwean scenario she said has not been given enough push for possible resolution.

This incensed the heckling youths who felt Sisulu was trying to down play the seriousness of the Marikana occurrences.

They vociferously demanded that she acknowledges that the death of a single person was as bad as those of many.

During his own presentation, Malunga, son to the late national hero Sydney Malunga, said he grew up to witness gruesome killings on his kins by members of the North Korean trained fifth brigade in a post-independence era.

The youths were soon to descend on him again for allegedly deliberately omitting the menace caused by army dissidents such as Richard Gwesela during the Matebeleland disturbances.

Malunga was forced to constantly divert from his presentation to engage in direct exchanges with the youths.

Attempts by SAPES host Ibbo Mandaza and other guests to calm them down only served to put more fuel in them as they vehemently voiced their disapproval around comments by the presenters.

Perhaps the worst to experience the wrath of the youths among the presenters was Rupiya who was forced to abandon his presentation when he had hardly spoken for 5 minutes when they accused him of once serving as an army Colonel during the bygone Ian Smith regime.



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The excitable youths left their seats and went straight to where the academic was sitting at the front, wagging their fingers right in his face.

“You are less qualified to speak about peace when you were involved in Smith violence; you are a Selous Scout…you violated human rights; you must be embarrassed, you were a special agent hired to kill Africans.

Mugwadi and his colleagues demanded that Rupiya must "confess" to the alleged killing of liberation war fighters in Chimoio, Mozambique before independence.

It was at the time that Dabengwa felt he had tolerated enough, immediately springing from his seat to confront the youths himself.

“Please allow him (Rupiya) to speak, if you don’t I will go," he said angrily.

Calm was restored but only during the period Dabengwa gave his presentation, starting with a stern warning to the youths.

“I would like to believe that I have been given the floor and I don’t take very kindly to jeering when I speak,” he said.

Mugwadi, the self-styled boo leader was once a strong Zanu PF critic and opposition sympathiser who surprised many when he switched allegiance to join the ruling party.

Thursday's event was one of a series of regular meetings called to discuss issues around national policy and is a favourite among foreign diplomats keen to understand the country’s political and economic trajectory from locals with both knowledge and a keen following of events in their country.

University students, embassy staff, civil society activists and members of the intelligentsia are also part of those who patronise the discussion forum.

The Thursday incident came  hardly two days after government conferred a heroes’ status on a Zanu PF youth leader who heckled former First Lady Grace Mugabe in November last year.


 
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