Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa says President Robert Mugabe must not be blamed for the Gukurahundi massacres because they occurred during a time of crisis.
Chinamasa told a Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition public meeting in Harare on Wednesday night that the 1980s killings in Matabeleland and Midlands were now water under the bridge.
“Words like the President commandeered this or that are just reckless and intended as political platform,” he said.
“We cannot take that quite seriously, there is no one who planned the death of anybody.
“If you look at the Gukurahundi, once you start a conflict it feeds on itself, it achieves and assumes a life of its own.
“So the thrust should be preventing, (because) once it has happened, my dear colleagues, there is no one anymore who can be responsible for what happens.
“This has happened in our colonial period, even before colonial times. Once there is a crisis there is no way anyone can claim to be in control.”
Chinamasa was reacting to MDC policy and research co-ordinator Qhubani Moyo’s argument that the decision to limit the mandate of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to investigating abuses that occurred after February 13, 2009 was meant to protect Mugabe.
But Moyo maintained Mugabe authored the massacres blamed on the North
Korean- trained 5th Brigade.
Government deployed the army in the two provinces ostensibly to deal with an armed dissident menace, but human rights activists say the campaign was targeted at supporters of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s PF Zapu.
The mass killings only ended after PF Zapu agreed to sign the 1987 Unity Accord with Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
Moyo said the 88-year-old veteran leader must be held accountable for the crimes committed by the army.
“When you talk about Gukurahundi, we are aware that the person who commandeered the Gukurahundi himself is the current President, who still has the power as we speak now,” he said.
“There are documents written in black and white of his speeches when he was saying when we fight dissidents we also fight their supporters, meaning innocent civilians.
“Later alone, he admits that it was a moment of madness.
“We need to deal with it (Gukurahundi).
“It will not succeed in terms of investigating him and his colleagues because they are holding positions of power,” Moyo said, adding that a seven-year period of murdering innocent people could not merely be called a “moment of madness”.
People also wanted to know why political parties in the inclusive government had set a cut-off date for the ZHRC.
Following a barrage of attacks, Chinamasa fired back and accused the organisers of the debate of coming up with an imbalanced panel to expose him.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said although the ZHRC had been given a cut-off date to investigate past atrocities, perpetrators of earlier cases of abuses were not off the hook as the new constitution could come up with provisions to deal with them.
“We will not bury the past, those who committed murder in 1980 are still guilty of murder,” he said.