PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has admitted to the State-sanctioned mass killings of civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces during the Gukurahundi era in the 1980s, but disputed claims that over 20 000 people were massacred.
BY SHARON SIBINDI/ NQOBANI NDLOVU
Speaking to BBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said: “I understand that those are the figures that are being flighted but, on the ground, I don’t think that is the correct figure.”
According to the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice, over 20 000 people, mostly civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces, were killed by a crack army unit, Fifth Brigade, at the instigation of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
At the time, Mnangagwa was National Security minister and in that capacity controlled the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation.
“I was Minister for National Security; that is national intelligence, that is correct. We are not saying the past must be thrown away from history. It has happened…,” he said.
Mnangagwa said he had signed into law the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill to account for past atrocities.
Quizzed if his government had any intention of establishing a truth and reconciliation commission, and if he would be at liberty to stand before it to answer questions, Mnangagwa insisted on the establishment of the peace and reconciliation process where affected communities could air their concerns.
“No, they (victims) themselves are going to…the commissions that were affected, if they ask me to come for any reason, I will,” he said.
He added: “The most important thing is that what has happened has happened. What can we do about the past?
“We have put up a commission to deal with that issue. That should not stop us to have a better future where all the communities should be united, to co-operate, to love each other, should work together…
“My dear, my people and myself are determined to make sure that the acts of commission or omission in the past we will interrogate them.
“Where the government of the day was wrong, we point out that that was wrong. Where the government of the day was correct, we should say so and we have put up machinery to achieve that.”
Further asked if he would apologise to the people of Zimbabwe for the genocide, Mnangagwa retorted: “I don’t know what your problem is; but this is how I am dealing with the situation.”
But the Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zapu has warned that Mnangagwa will never succeed in his bid to wriggle out of the Gukurahundi issue.
Mnangagwa has been put in the spotlight of late over the 1980s mass killings, with protests also having been held in Pretoria, South Africa, and at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Grounds in Bulawayo recently over inaction in dealing with the issue.
The 76-year-old leader, who took over from Mugabe following military action in November 2017, has been preaching peace since his inauguration last year, urging Zimbabweans to “let bygones be bygones” but did not proffer an apology.
Zapu has challenged Mnangagwa to take a leading role in addressing the atrocities which his predecessor opted to say were a “moment of madness”.
“Zanu PF has created and sustained such distractions for a long time now in trying to avoid accounting for their murderous past.
No one can wish away Gukurahundi — they could only buy time, but now the currency is depleted. It’s time for closure and justice. It’s time to account,” Zapu spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa said.
“Mnangagwa knows the importance of solving it, he must be told that Gukurahundi is not a bygone, but a genocide that the Zanu PF government perpetrated on unarmed Zapu supporters.
“It is a genocidal crime that Mnangagwa as leader of the perpetrating government should take a leading role in its solution. He cannot wish it away, both in his individual capacity and as President of both Zanu PF and government, the perpetrators.”