MATEBELELAND based civic groups have rowed bitterly over a recent decision by a section of them to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is largely a resented figure in the region because of his role in the 1980s army atrocities on 20 000 civilians.
Representatives of Matabeleland Collective, a grouping of civic groups based in the region, met the President at State House in Bulawayo a fortnight ago to discuss issues affecting the region.
The closed door meeting has apparently angered some leaders who accuse their colleagues of selling the region out.
According to sources who attended the meeting, several issues affecting the predominantly Ndebele region such as the Gukurahundi atrocities and the mass deployment of Shona speaking teachers in the region were broached with Mnangagwa.
There are claims that some of the Matebeleland Collective leaders turned the meeting into a Mnangagwa praise singing event.
WOZA leader Jennifer Williams, once a bitter government critic, was cited as one of those who showered Mnangagwa with flattering praises. She described him as a “listening” President.
Said Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, an activist, “As we noted in 2017 after the coup, the ED administration seeks to end international isolation. They were complicit in the genocide and have convinced civil society leaders in ED administration to dialogue.
“This dialogue is not about resolving the Gukurahundi question. It has everything to clean up the President’s image so that he can be presented in international forums as a listening president.”
Mnangagwa was security minister when troops deployed in the region ostensibly to hunt down armed army dissidents committed atrocities on innocent civilians. The now State President’s name remains prominent among those who led the slaughter.
Mabhena, in his comments, suggested the meeting could have been facilitated by the British embassy in Harare which is seen as having masterminded the November 2017 coup against then President Robert Mugabe.
Academic Brilliant Mhlanga claimed the meeting was a revenge mission by certain opposition elements who are seeking power in the restive region.
Mhlanga also claimed that the Matabeleland Collective was the brainchild of MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe and party MP, Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga.
Misihairambwi-Mushonga was also present at the State House meeting and her presence raised questions since she is an MP and not part of civil society organisations.
Mhlanga also claimed that the conveners of the meeting were employed to try and clean Mnangagwa’s image.
“These people who met Mnangagwa had no mandate at all,” he said.
“They can’t even make that loud farce that they were representing people from Matebeleland because they just don’t have that mandate. It is time our people come out clear on this.
“Those are merely donor driven characters who are self-serving and opportunistic. Period. Who mandates Jenni Williams to go and speak for Mthwakazi. Since when?”
However, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) executive director, Michael Mdladla Ndiweni, whose organisation is part of the Collective, defended the meeting.
“We started our work long before the State House meeting. Please do not mislead people. It is shameful for adults to propagate untruths. Actually, way before the November coup. People must stop lying in their face.
“I am prepared to engage those who want to know the history of the Collective; not all this hogwash being peddled by people who are very misinformed and clouded in their ‘I know it all’ mentality,” commented Ndiweni in one of the online discussions.