MDC leader Welshaman Ncube has warned that tensions over the 1980s Gukurahundi conflict will not go away until political leaders become more open over the emotive issue and work towards some form of restorative compensation for the victims.
Said Ncube in an interview with The Sunday Mail: “(What) should be done is a basic minimum, otherwise it will not go away. We must admit frankly and openly that Gukurahundi happened in the manner in which it happened.
“That there were people who were killed, people who were maimed, people who lost their homes, people were driven into exile. There are people today who can’t still get documents arising out of Gukurahundi: there is no father, there is no mother, there is just a child who can’t get a birth certificate.
“So let’s start by at least acknowledging and saying, ‘We as Zimbabweans went through this unfortunate phase of our history. It was wrong, it should have not happened’.”
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 deal with what officials described as a dissident menace in the two regions.
The conflict continues to divide opinion within Mugabe’s own Zanu PF party with some senior officials arguing the 1987 Unity Accord between Mugabe and then PF Zapu leader Dr Joshua Nkomo should be last word on the issue.
Said Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa last July: “We don’t want to undermine efforts by our national leaders to reunite the people. If we try to open healed wounds by discussing such issues, we will be undermining and failing to recognise the statesmanship exhibited by President Mugabe and Dr Jushua Nkomo when they signed the unity accord in 1987.
"The people who very vocal on the Gukurahundi have selfish agendas that they are pushing. They want to divide the nation by making unfounded allegations.”
But former information minister and Zanu PF politburo member, Jonathan Moyo, countered that “the Gukurahundi issue is not a closed chapter” adding that Zanu PF must in fact take the lead in resolving the issue or risk having “charlatans and vile opportunists” exploit the explosive subject for cheap political advantage.
Mugabe has not directly apologised for the conflict, only describing it as a moment of madness.
Ncube said the Zanu PF leader needs to do more insisting: “It’s not enough, to just stand up one day and say this was a simple moment of madness and then thereafter say everyone who mentions that is either a tribalist or divisionist. You can’t do that. There must be an unconditional acceptance. Unlawful, wrong killings, maiming, burnings of homes were done. That’s the first thing.
“The second thing is that those who suffered in one form or another and those who are still suffering, you must at least have what we might call restorative compensation. To say let’s look at all the children who are affected, let’s make an exceptional law that says that anyone who comes forward as a child and says, “I lost my parents” you give them a birth certificate. You give them an ID.”
The MDC leader said the Organ on National Healing formed as part of the Global Political Agreement could have taken lead in helping resolve the issue.
“Let us first stop behaving as if Gukurahundi did not happen,” he said.
“Let’s accept it happened and let’s say come forward, for instance, the Organ on National Healing. When we proposed it during the negotiations, we thought that it would do some of these things without going back to open old wounds … ‘You did this to me, you did that to me’ because we couldn’t agree on that. But at least we were able to say let us correct the persisting injustices.
“So the Government, all it needs to do is say, “Register-General, go to the affected areas, call on anyone who lost a document which can’t be replaced because of our rigid rules, make sure they get their documents. It’s just as simple as that.
“So the rest … giving money to people, trying people, we are saying forget about it now let just deal with the continuing injustices for now as a basic minimum.”