By Bulawayo Correspondent
PRO-MATABELELAND activists Tuesday commemorated government’s first deployment of the notorious 5th Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces with calls for justice and reparations for both the perpetrators and victims.
On 20 January 1982, the government deployed the North Korean trained army unit in two provinces ostensibly to quash alleged dissident activities in the region.
According to independent reports released after atrocities ceased in 1987, an estimated 20 000 civilians died in the hands of the military during the dark period now commonly referred to as the Gukurahundi era.
Almost 39 years after deployment, perpetrators of the genocide have not been made to account for the crimes amid concerns a lot of perpetrators and victims have died.
“The 20th of January will forever remain a dark day in the history of our beloved country. This was the day in 1982 when the Fifth Brigade was deployed in Matabeleland and Midlands regions with a clear agenda to commit genocide. This state funded tribal cleansing was mercilessly carried out up to the end of genocide ceremony on 22 December 1987,” said Ibhetshu Likazulu secretary general Mbuso Fuzwayo.
The mass killings were halted following the December 22, 1987 unity accord signed between bitter foes Robert Mugabe, then Prime Minister and Joshua Nkomo, then leader of the opposition PF Zapu which was widely believed to be in concert with dissident activity.
Both politicians are now late.
Fuzwayo accused the government of deliberately failing to address the emotive gukurahundi issue.
“Sadly, up to this day, the government of Zimbabwe has continued to be remorseless by not taking concrete measures to put into place a foundation for true peace and reconciliation in the country. The National Peace and Reconciliation (NPR), constitutional body that is supposed to be independent and expected to lead the process of finding a path towards true peace and reconciliation remains underfunded.
“Its independence is elusive and undermined,” he said.
Fuzwayo also complained that most of architects of the atrocities were dying without being made to account for their crimes.
“It is unfortunate that gukurahundi accused number one Robert Mugabe, accused number three Perrance Shiri are both dead while accused number two Emmerson Mnangagwa is hoodwinking the nation abusing the church, civic society, traditional leaders and general public by creating unconstitutional structures setting one against the other yet doing nothing progressively in pursuit of true peace and reconciliation for the country.
“We are seriously worried that other instruments of the perpetrator who are the soldiers and military generals that led the extermination of our fellow countrymen continue to die every day without giving the country vital information on how they implemented this diabolic act, painfully survivors are not spared either, they continue to depart without finding justice and closure,” added Fuzwayo.
Shiri was the commander of the 5th Brigade while Mnangagwa was the Minister of State Security at the time.
Fuzwayo’s sentiments were also echoed by Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president Mqondisi Moyo.
“To us the people of Mthwakazi, 20 January is a very sad day to us. It reminds us of how our relatives were killed by the Shona dominated 5 Brigade. In fact, this day should be declared a holiday where we mourn our people,” said Moyo.