Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday called for legislation that will compel the government to compensate victims of State- sponsored violence, including the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Tsvangirai, who was speaking during a question-and-answer session in Parliament, said Gukurahundi was a “sensitive” matter and the government needed to handle it carefully.
He was responding to a question by Makoni South MP Pishai Muchauraya (MDC-T), who wanted to know if there was any intention to compensate victims of the 1980s military campaign in Matabeleland and Midlands.
“The honourable member is treading on a sensitive issue and I would like to say no policy has been adopted yet by government to compensate victims during this very sad episode in history,” Tsvangirai said.
“This is a serious issue and we need to review the whole policy of compensation as it is painful to have lost loved ones.”
But Sanyati MP Fungai Chaderopa (Zanu PF) suggested that if government introduced such a policy, it would have to also consider compensating victims of the liberation war.
“Victims of the liberation struggle were compensated under the War Victims Compensation Act, and it responded in some way to them,” Tsvangirai replied.
“However, the Act does not cover victims of Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina or people killed in political violence after independence.
“What is needed now is a law that is going to apply to the broad issues of compensation to victims of pre- and post-independence violence.”
An estimated 20 000 people were killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions mainly by members of the 5th Brigade who were ostensibly deployed to deal with an armed dissident menace.
Critics say the government targeted supporters of the then main opposition PF Zapu led by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
The killings only ended when PF Zapu signed a Unity Accord with Zanu PF in 1987.
President Robert Mugabe a decade ago described the massacres as a “moment of madness”, but stopped short of apologising.
However, there are mounting calls for the Gukurahundi victims to be compensated.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai said he was baffled by Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu’s refusal to implement media reforms in compliance with the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
He said Cabinet and the principals in the inclusive government had directed Shamu to initiate the reforms that included the restructuring of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation board and opening up of airwaves.
Tsvangirai said it appeared the minister from the Zanu PF side of the shaky coalition was not prepared to comply.
“My conclusion on this is it has nothing to do with him, perhaps there is a person giving him that directive,” the PM said.
“It has caused conflict in the GPA and has become a high political issue.
“I do not think any minister would stand up and defy Cabinet directives – there must be a reason why, especially if a civil servant also stands up to defy directives,” he added.
Tsvangirai also expressed disappointment with Local Government, Urban and Rural Development minister Ignatius Chombo’s unilateral decisions to dismiss mayors and councillors.
“Some of these dismissals are unfortunate as I read about them in the newspapers,” Tsvangirai said.
“I am supposed to supervise some of these ministers, but they fire people without informing me and I read of that in the newspapers.
“However, he (Chombo) has powers to dismiss people for corruption.”
Chombo is accused of targeting MDC-T led councils for victimisation.