In the past few days, two things happened that make me worry about this country’s future, as there seems to be a concerted, but tragic effort to airbrush the country’s history in an effort to portray villains as heroes and vice versa.
By NQABA MATSHAZI
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was quoted in The Economist, saying the 2008 elections were “very fair”.
I briefly alluded to this in my last column, but, instead of being a once-off gaffe, a pattern is emerging, where this current administration is trying to distance itself from the atrocities of the past and portray Mnangagwa as someone who recently happened on the political scene without any baggage.
If you did not know any better, you would think that former President Robert Mugabe was running a one-man band and only he, and at worst his wife, Grace, are responsible for the mess that Zimbabwe finds itself in today.
Mnangagwa’s previously vaunted record as Mugabe’s enforcer and confidante is now being conveniently left out.
While an argument can be made that Mugabe was in charge and the buck stopped with him, surely his accomplices ought to be painted with the same brush and cannot be said to have been sheepishly and unquestioningly following their leader.
If one can argue that Mnangagwa was just following instructions and was a mere minion as his spokesman, George Charamba, wants us to believe, then the President’s principles ought to come into question.
If Mnangagwa stood unquestioningly and loyally at Mugabe’s side during the Gukurahundi massacres, the Willowgate scandal, the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme, the food riots of 1997-8, the farm invasions of 2000, the electoral violence of 2002 and 2008, with the accusations of rigging, Operation Murambatsvina of 2005 and the economic collapse of the last two decades, then how different is the current President from his predecessor and how does he escape scrutiny?
Back to the 2008 elections, which Mnangagwa said were very fair and peaceful, the President has to be asked why his Zanu PF party had to be forced into a power sharing agreement if the polls were anything close to fairness and peace.
It is not lost on many that Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s chief elections agent in the 2008 elections and by saying they were fair, he is trying to absolve himself of any blame.
Mugabe’s reign was ruinous and should have ended years back, but Mnangagwa cannot escape scrutiny over the 38 years he has spent in government, with the overwhelming majority of those years as the former President’s confidante.
Then Charamba went a step further, saying Mnangagwa had no role to play in the Gukurahundi massacres, quite a weird statement to say, considering the amount of information that is emerging about that dark period.
It must be difficult for Charamba, who spent years trying to defend Mugabe against accusations of instigating Gukurahundi and now has the unenviable task of throwing his former boss under the bus, while at the same trying to absolve the incumbent.
Mnangagwa was not the commander in chief then, but ran the Security ministry, which was central to what was happening then.
He was quoted in The Chronicle of March 1983 referring to “dissidents” as cockroaches and saying the government would use DDT to exterminate them, hardly the words of a minion.
There are many such statements that were attributed to the President and I will not belabour the point.
What is worrying is the failure by this administration to take responsibility for their actions and apologise for their past misdeeds and enabling Mugabe.
While saying sorry will not assuage everyone, it will differentiate this administration from the one it succeeded, rather than it being different sides of the same coin with Mugabe’s administration.
Probably there is a fear that if they will apologise they will be seen as weak, but that is far from the truth.
The United Nations says an honest and sincere apology has the potential to restore dignity and diminish fear of retaliation or even desire for vengeance on the receiving end.
“On the giving end it can be a powerful tool to reconcile a . . . relationship and to initiate the restoration of trust.
“Accordingly, an apology can show strength of character, demonstrate emotional competence and reaffirm that both parties share values in their relationship they want to commit to.”
By refusing to apologise or pretending the past never happened and trying to rewrite parts of history, this administration is only engendering resentment from people who have suffered excesses at the hands of Zanu PF.
Mnangagwa has been so averse to an apology, despite being granted several opportunities to apologise on the world stage, and has insisted on moving forward and not being slaves of the past.
However, the country cannot move on when there are so many unresolved issues and trying to airbrush the past will not help in anyway.
An apology, while not a magic bullet, will help some of the affected people find closure and begin on a process of healing.
Mnangagwa may argue that he was not in charge, as he did in a New Statesman interview, but there is no harm in apologising on behalf of the government.
For example, successive Japanese prime ministers have apologised for that country’s atrocities during World War II even if they were nowhere near the levers of power during that period and this has not diminished their statures, nor of their country.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which Mnangagwa signed into law recently, will not achieve anything if the powers that be are so keen on protesting their innocence and it is no surprise that most of its meetings have been disrupted, because some people feel that is not a sincere exercise, but some elaborate window dressing charade.
As The Economist aptly put it: Zimbabwe is open for business, but closed for remorse.
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