ZANU PF must lead efforts to resolve the Gukurahundi issue or risk having “charlatans and vile opportunists” exploit the explosive subject for cheap political advantage, politburo member and former information minister Jonathan Moyo has said.
Moyo said recent remarks by senior party officials suggesting that the Gukurahundi scourge was a “closed chapter” were “irresponsible and unacceptable”.
Rights groups claim some 20 000 innocent civilians were killed in the Matebeleland and Midlands regions when the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe deployed a North Korean-trained army taskforce to hunt down a few dozen dissident supporters of rival Joshua Nkomo.
Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa recently triggered a storm over the issue after suggesting that the 1987 unity accord between Mugabe and Nkomo should be the last word on the emotive subject.
Mnangagwa’s remarks followed a similar intervention by Vice President John Nkomo who said the country needed to move beyond what he described as “irreversible history”.
"We have to accept that where there are human tribulations, such things happen. Let's engage to build a better present and a better future and always remember that what happened is history and we can't reverse it,” Nkomo said.
Mnangagwa and Nkomo said revisiting the atrocities risked re-opening “healed wounds” and undermining unity in the country.
But in an interview with the Zanu PF-leaning Sunday Mail newspaper, Moyo said “it cannot be true that the wounds were ever closed” and urged the party to lead efforts to resolve the issue.
“The Gukurahundi issue is not a closed chapter,” Moyo said.
“(But) calls from some destructive quarters for a fresh probe on this matter are as irresponsible and unacceptable as the claims from our own ranks that the matter is now a closed chapter whose discussion will open old wounds.”
Moyo said the atrocities were a dark point in the country’s history adding the state’s reponse to the dissident problem in the two regions was “outrageously disproportionate”.
“(Gukurahundi) was a dark point in our history as an independent nation which not only involved dissidents who committed atrocities and wantonly destroyed property but also the State whose response to the dissident menace … was so outrageously disproportionate as to cause unnecessary suffering among ordinary people which could have otherwise been avoided,” he said.
President Mugabe has not directly apologised for the atrocities only describing them as a “moment of madness that was regrettable”.
Moyo said Mugabe’s remarks were “paradigmatic” and should direct new efforts to address the issue.
“President Mugabe made a paradigmatic statement in 2000 when he described it as a moment of madness, which it indeed was, but there’s nothing that has been done since 2000 to use that very important statement by the President to bring the matter to finality or closure,” Moyo said.
“I strongly believe that only Zanu-PF can lead the process of bringing that matter to closure building on what President Mugabe said in 2000. And the party can do that by being willing to publicly engage the issue in an open, honest and non-defensive way, which has characterised our attitude thus far.”
Human rights and opposition groups have demanded a new probe into the atrocities leading to the prosecution of those responsible and compensation for the victims.
However, Moyo said all the facts about Gukurahundi were known and there was no need for a new probe.
In 1983, Mugabe commissioned an inquiry into the attrocities led by Simplisius Chihambakwe but refused to make public its findings and it remains unclear whether the government acted on any of its recommendations.
“Quite clearly, those who have called for a fresh probe are pursuing cheap politics in the hope of winning cheap votes,” Moyo said.
“The facts are that there’s nothing about the Gukurahundi period which we do not know to warrant a fresh probe … Therefore, the only outstanding issue about Gukurahundi is not to probe some more but to close the wounds and close the chapter in a responsible manner once and for all.”