The Organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu has warned perpetrators of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres that they now faced possible prosecution following the recent classification of the incident as genocide by the international community.
Addressing a Gukurahundi memorial service at the Baptist Church in Bulawayo over the weekend, Mzila-Ndlovu said: “Not all Gukurahundi perpetrators will escape prosecution as the operation is now accepted as genocide by the international community.
“I know that among the people who planned and executed it, they think they will die before they are arrested for it.
“But I want to assure you that one of the perpetrators of Gukurahundi will face trial someday.
“That some people will be arrested make no doubt about it. With or without us who are here today, it (arrest) will happen,” he said.
The internationally-recognised group Genocide Watch in September 2010 announced the Gukurahundi massacres were now classified as genocide.
Genocide Watch chairperson Professor Gregory Stanton said the classification meant perpetrators could be prosecuted no matter how much time had passed.
The weekend commemorations were organised by a Bulawayo-based pressure group Ibhetshu Likazulu in honour of the estimated 20 000 villagers from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces who were massacred during a government-sanctioned military crackdown on perceived insurgents between 1983 and 1987.
The military operation was aimed at civilians supporting the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu party.
The violence only ended after the late PF Zapu leader agreed to a truce with President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and signed a peace pact on December 22 1987.
Gukurahundi has remained an emotive issue in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces with most political and civic leaders calling for restorative justice and prosecution of perpetrators.
President Mugabe and Zanu PF have described the era as a “moment of madness” and “a closed chapter”, but other party leaders are advocating for a fresh probe and arrest of those involved.
Mzila-Ndlovu vowed to keep pressure on the government to order fresh investigations and prosecution of the perpetrators.
“Whoever is there in the government and does not agree with me should come here (Matabeleland) and state their reasons and tell the people why they disagree with me.”