ZIMBABWE People First (ZimPF) leader, Agrippa Mutambara has distanced himself from the Gukurahundi massacres, claiming the State-sanctioned mass killings, which claimed over 20 000 lives in Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980s, were conducted without the knowledge of some top army commanders at the time.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Mutambara told journalists in Bulawayo on Tuesday that, although he was a top army commander at the time, he was not directly involved in the operation, whose details have remained a “closely guarded State secret”.
“I want you to understand that what happened during Gukurahundi was a closely-guarded secret even to army commanders,” he said.
“The only indicator that something was afoot was the fact that I might have seen some vehicles, which I had not seen before, and did not know where they were going. But otherwise, we were not privy to anything. Also at the time, I was not a member of the fighting force, and so, I have no link to Gukurahundi whatsoever.”
Mutambara, who is accused of raping Judith Todd at the height of the killings because of her determination to unearth the massacres, claimed there is a lot of misinformation about what may have happened during Gukurahundi.
“There is a lot of misinformation on the role that I might have played in the army,” he said.
“I have intimated that my first assignment in the army was to be the commandant of the Zimbabwe Staff College that had nothing to do with the Fifth Brigade.
“I never trained or commanded the Fifth Brigade. “The only brigades I commanded were the Fourth Brigade in Masvingo and Sixth Brigade, which was based in Bulawayo, and this particular brigade was commissioned long after Gukurahundi.”
The Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) documented the killings, with estimates saying 20 000 civilians were killed during the 1983-87 Gukurahundi massacres after then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe unleashed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade into Matabeleland to flush out suspected ex-Zipra dissidents.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is often accused of being the face of the massacres, has also denied responsibility, passing the buck to Mugabe and Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi.
Mugabe has described the massacres as a moment of madness, but refused to publicly apologise and offer compensation for the mass killings.
Mutambara urged opposition parties to lay charges against Zanu PF after the 2018 elections.
Meanwhile, Mutambara has urged the opposition — in the event they takeover power in the 2018 general elections — to have top Zanu PF officials charged for blocking Mugabe from stepping down.
Zanu PF officials have said Mugabe must continue to rule despite advanced age, but Mutambara said this had come at a great cost to the country, as seen by the grinding poverty, joblessness, company closures among other socio-economic ills.
Mutambara said Mugabe must step down.
“I feel sorry for Mugabe. I also feel sorry for those people, who are urging him to continue. When the time comes for a change of government, they must be held accountable,” he said.