Bulawayo governor and Zanu PF deputy national spokesperson Cain Mathema has labelled as “stupid and daft” politicians and civic society leaders clamouring for compensation for victims of the 1980s’ Gukurahundi massacres.
Mathema made the remarks last Friday while giving a public lecture at the Midlands State University in Gweru. The lecture, titled Zimbabwe Diverse, But One, was attended by nearly 1 000 students and lecturers.
“All those people who are saying Gukurahundi victims should be compensated are stupid and daft,” Mathema said.
“Why should they be compensated when we had the 1987 Unity Accord? That unity was enough and there is no need for compensation.
“Those that talk about Gukurahundi want to act as if there were Shonas butchering the Ndebeles when it was the Britons who were butchering the people of Matabeleland and Midlands to create disharmony.”
Mathema’s remarks came amid calls by a newly-formed civic organisation, the Zimbabwe United People’s Advocacy Group (Zupag), for victims of Gukurahundi and the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina to be paid at least $2 million each as compensation.
Zupag chairperson Reason Sibanda told NewsDay last week his organisation petitioned President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru last November to address the compensation issue, but got no response.
He said they were now planning to picket Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office to push for compensation of the victims of the military crackdown led by the Fifth Brigade.
“We demand $2 million compensation per head for the terror victims, Gukurahundi victims to Murambatsvina to 2008 post-election terror victims and to uncompensated war veterans,” Sibanda said.
Tsvangirai last week called for legislation that would compel 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.
An estimated 20 000 people were killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions mainly by members of the Fifth 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 the Unity Accord with Zanu PF in 1987.
A decade ago, Mugabe described the massacres as a “moment of madness”, but stopped short of apologising. Meanwhile, Mathema also slammed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the country, saying they were proxies of the West.
Mathema claimed NGOs in Matabeleland and Midlands were resuscitating debate on tribalism and Gukurahundi as part of their regime change agenda.
“It is part of the asymmetric warfare that is being used to remove Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe from power,” he said.
“Those that are being used locally to implement the strategy include the MDC formations and non-governmental organisations.
“In the 1980s we used to have only around 180 NGOs. Today we have around 4 000 NGOs all of them formed in order to remove Zanu PF from power so that the country does not achieve economic independence through the economic empowerment of the black people,” Mathema added.
“And when their local proxies have rallies in Matabeleland, they are instructed to invoke the monster of Shonas hating and oppressing Ndebeles.
They are also instructed to sing and dance about devolution and they sing and dance as if Ndebeles are only in Matabeleland, when Ndebeles, like all our tribes and sub-tribes, are in each and every one of our provinces.”