By Sydney Kawadza
On December 22, 1987, Zimbabwe’s two major nationalist movements namely the Patriotic Front Zimbabwe African People’s Union led by Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe African National Union led by Robert Mugabe, both late, signed an agreement to form a united nationalist political party and end ethnic violence which had marred the country since the early 1980s.
The brutal suppression of Zimbabwean civilians, mostly supporters of Nkomo, by Zimbabwe’s North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces, started in 1983.
The sad event, which became known as the Gukurahundi massacres, claimed about 20 000 innocent lives when former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) combatants waged armed banditry against civilians in Matabeleland while destroying government installations.
However, after some negotiations, Nkomo and Mugabe signed the agreement that merged the two parties.
This also marked the commemorations for National Unity Day on December 22 each year.
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Some of the provisions of the Unity Accord that the two parties commit themselves to unite under one political party are that there should be two second secretaries and Vice-Presidents while the party sought to establish one-party State in Zimbabwe.
However, it has emerged that the Unity Accord has been shredded to pieces over the years, and Zimbabweans wonder if there was anything to celebrate on the Unity Day.
Political analysts interviewed by the NewsDay also agreed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu PF counterparts have not been following the 1987 Unity Accord since the deaths of Mugabe and Nkomo.
Analyst Effie Ncube said the agreement was never a unity of two equal parties, but Zapu came in as a defeated organisation.
“Zapu was forced into it as by 1987, it had no choice but fold into Zanu. It had lost thousands of its supporters to mass murder in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces,” he said.
“As such, the Accord was a victory for Zanu (PF) and perpetrators of the Gukurahundi genocide. Zapu got zero. Nothing, except an end to mass murders,” he added.
“The perpetrators had successfully committed genocide and crimes against humanity and the Unity Accord came in to assist them to cover up their crimes.”
He said the text of the accord was also clear that it is a perpetrators’ document that was meant to serve the interests of Zanu PF and continues to do so to this day.
“The interests of victims of genocide and Zapu as an organisation were never on the table. In many ways, from Zanu PF’s point of view at the time, the Unity Accord was meant to be Zapu’s death certificate,” Ncube said.
“Remember, the Accord makes no mention of the appointment of one of the Vice-Presidents from Zapu. Right from the beginning, the appointment was a courtesy and an act of political generosity from Zanu and there was nothing binding about it. Later, it became practice so much so that many thought it was an integral part of the Accord when it wasn’t.”
He said it was not surprising that, lately, Zanu PF has been gradually phasing this courtesy away.
“This is particularly the case with the current President. All of us know that President Mnangagwa was never a proponent of unity between Zanu and Zapu, but wanted Zapu and its supporters dead.
“His role in that is well recorded in history books. His attitude can be seen from the little value he places on the Accord compared with his predecessor,” Ncube argued.
He said under Mnangagwa, the Accord has been relegated to an insignificant footnote.
“The resignation and subsequent non-replacement of former Vice-President Kembo Mohadi speaks volumes and is, therefore, evidence of this attitude.
“For all intents and purposes, the Accord, for all it ever was, is dead and buried. To believe otherwise is cheating one-self,” he said.
South Africa-based political commentator Ricky Mukonza said Zapu signed the agreement from a disadvantaged position, while Zanu signed it from a position of power.
“Resultantly, all that Zapu got was at the benevolence of Zanu. Given that, it was to be expected that Zanu would walk over the agreement as it wishes, especially after the death of Joshua Nkomo.
“Hence the expulsion of Mohadi in 2017, non-return of Nitram properties and more recently, the absence of a Zapu representative in the presidium,” he said.
Mukonza further argued that the weakness of Zapu causes Zanu to behave as if the Accord was no longer in existence
Alexander Rusero, another political commentator, said the major fault in the Unity Accord was that it was a false start from the onset as it was a peace agreement agreed on duress.
“It reads like Zapu was on gun point and only its leaders’ submission and signatures required. It was not a give and take agreement as is supposed to be the case,” he said.
“It is Zanu that dictated everything and Nkomo and Zapu merely confirming and not agreeing to the Unity Accord.
“They ‘agreed’ to abolish their party and erase its name from history among other issues. Hence, whereas Mugabe had some sense of respectfully adhering to the Accord even in its most flawed nature, Mnangagwa has some other ideas.”
Rusero also argued that it was also the reason why Mnangagwa was attempting to rewrite history with his current script in trying to resolve the Gukurahundi.
“You can’t be referee and player in the same match. Mnangagwa cannot play referee in a Gukurahundi match he was the captain and one of the key enforcers.
“Zimbabwe requires truth and reconciliation as opposed to chicanery closure over the issue. Thus, the Unity Accord has reached its sell by date, no balance in Zanu PF presidium, no balance in ministerial and even deputy ministerial appointments,” he said.
Rusero added: “There can’t be any semblance of unity when brazen tribalism is nakedly visible in Mnangagwa’s way of doing things.”
While Zimbabweans want and yearn for unity in their lives and definitely welcome a holiday so close to Christmas, the 1987 Accord is long past its sell-by date.