The Unity Accord signed between Zanu PF and PF Zapu leaders, President Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo respectively in 1987 was hailed for bringing to an end the brutal mass killings of mostly PF Zapu supporters in Matabeleland and Midlands.
It was also credited with paving the way for the release of a number of PF Zapu officials who had been arrested and detained in various prisons in the country for alleged political crimes.
However, recent sentiments by Zanu PF political bigwigs from Matabeleland trying to suppress discussion of what Genocide Watch has described as “genocide”, in Gukurahundi, have ignited debate on the issue of the Unity Accord and what it says about the atrocities that characterised the 1980s in the three provinces.
Unlike other agreements and treaties in other countries that have been recorded in detail in history text books, the Unity Accord is only mentioned in passing and therefore has been (mis) used mostly by Zanu PF officials to dismiss a number of contentious issues especially to do with Matabeleland.
A number of senior Zanu PF officials including Vice-President John Nkomo and party’s secretary for legal affairs and defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa have said Gukurahundi was a “closed chapter”, citing the signing of the Unity Accord.
Zanu PF members have largely remained the “sole authorities” on discussions of the Unity Accord.
Although the signing of the agreement is celebrated every December 22, little is known to people concerning the actual contents of the agreement.
According to Judith Garfield Todd in her book Through the Darkness, A Life in Zimbabwe, the Unity Accord which she claimed Nkomo and Zapu was forced to sign “after months and years of brutal pressure from Robert Mugabe and Zanu (PF)” consisted of “10 points that left no breathing space for any democratic values in Zimbabwe”.
In page 235 of her book, Todd lists the 10 points as:
l Zanu PF and PF Zapu were irrevocably united under one political party;
l Unity was to be achieved under the name Zimbabwe African Union (Patriotic Front), in short Zanu PF;
l Comrade Gabriel Mugabe would be the first secretary and President of Zanu PF;
l Zanu PF would have two second secretaries and vice-presidents, who would be appointed by the first secretary and the president;
l Zanu PF would seek to establish a socialist society in Zimbabwe on the guidance of Marxist Leninist principles;
l Zanu PF would seek to establish a one party state;
l Zanu PF would abide by the leadership code;
l The present leadership of PF Zapu would take immediate steps to end insecurity and violence prevalent in Matabeleland;
l Zanu PF and PF Zapu would convene respective congresses to give effect to the agreement;
l Comrade Robert Mugabe would be vested with full powers to prepare for the implementation of the agreement and to act in the name and authority of Zanu PF.
No mention was made of the healing of families of the over 20 000 people that were massacred during Gukurahundi.
Zapu spokesperson, Methuseli Moyo said the Unity Accord made no mention of the Gukurahundi victims and how the healing process would be handled.
He described the agreement as “an empty document negotiated at gun point”.
“If you go back to the Unity Accord, it is specific on two issues that the two parties unite with Mugabe, as president and first secretary and under Mugabe, otherwise it is an empty document negotiated at gun point,” he said.
“Mugabe’s plot was that PF Zapu remain chained to Zanu PF.”
Moyo said the belief the Unity Accord addressed Gukurahundi, was wrong, because the document was signed between two parties and not on behalf of the people of Matabeleland and Midlands, most of whom were Ndebele speaking.
Moyo said PF Zapu was a national party and not a Matabeleland party hence saying it resolved the Gukurahundi issue which only occurred in three of the country’s 10 provinces was a fallacy.
Political analyst Effie Ncube said there were no provisions in the Unity Accord to cater for Gukurahundi victims hence the issue remained unresolved, “and those in Zanu PF who have lost the confidence of the people make absurd claims that the matter is a closed chapter”.
“It is political disorder of the highest kind,” added Ncube.
Bulawayo Resident’s Association coordinator Rodrick Fayayo said claiming the Unity Accord closed the Gukurahundi chapter was, “as ridiculous as saying the signing of the Global Political Agreement solved the problems that affected the people in the ten years of economic meltdown.
“People were affected individually hence the matter has to be dealt with on a broader basis. There is a deliberate tendency that people can just forget because it happened a long time ago, but the people do not forget easily. They will never forget until the matter is resolved.”
A Zanu PF politburo member who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The Unity Accord was signed by Nkomo chiefly to stop the mass killings of the people at that time.
“We are made to believe that it was agreed programmes would be set to catapult Matabeleland and Midlands to the level of other provinces that were not affected by Gukurahundi but nothing of that sort ever happened until now,” said the senior party official.
However, another Zanu PF politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said the Unity Accord had achieved a lot, “and even these new political parties owe their existence to the accord”.
“I will not discuss Gukurahundi in the media because I do not believe it will offer any solutions to the sad period, but we are dealing with it as a party internally,” he said.