TWENTY-FOUR years ago, politicians who caused Joshua Nkomo tremendous grief during his lifetime shed crocodile tears and speechified at his funeral.
Their supporters joined in. Two weeks ago, Zanu PF and President Emmerson Mnangagwa abused the anniversary of Nkomo’s death to campaign in Bulilima district, an area which suffered the Gukurahundi savagery.
This opportunism, particularly from Mnangagwa, is nauseating and an affront to common decency.
After the November 2017 coup, I was one of the first people to say “give Mnangagwa a chance” partly because I genuinely believed his proximity to the late former President Robert Mugabe had armed him with the wisdom and a conscience to right the wrongs of Mugabe’s rule — Gukurahundi in particular.
Six years later, it is clear that Mnangagwa has no such lofty aspirations and has learnt nothing from Mugabe’s errors.
In my estimation, he has exhausted all the public goodwill. Nation building is not a priority to him. Mnangagwa has failed to lead from the front when it comes to Gukurahundi, nation healing and reconciliation.
Important ingredients to reconciliation and healing are truth-telling and contrition.
None of them has been forthcoming from a leader who played a role in Gukurahundi.
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Nkomo’s book, The Story of My Life, captures his anger and helplessness over the manner in which the likes of Mnangagwa humiliated him and made him run in circles trying to avoid the loss of innocent lives in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Today, Mnangagwa calls Nkomo a peacemaker and a passionate nation-builder and yet he has called him a sell-out before.
In 1983, Mnangagwa described dissidents as “cockroaches” and the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade as the “DDT” brought in to eradicate them.
He said the Fifth Brigade had come to Matabeleland like fire “and in the process of cleansing the area of dissidents had also wiped out their supporters”.
As a born-again Christian, I am all for forgiveness as this is a commandment from my God. None of us is without sin.
Here I yield to the scriptures: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9-10 (NIV).
And since an apology or contrition are not conditions to forgiveness, I long forgave Mnangagwa and all those responsible for Gukurahundi. Only God can deal with them.
But nation building requires Mnangagwa to set an example by coming clean.
Mnangagwa has dealt with the Gukurahundi scandal, the nation and survivors as if he was an innocent bystander.
He was not. He should have been leading from the front with a heart and attitude that reflects that his hands are far from clean on this matter.
And a sense of urgency would help to expedite resolving such a national emotive matter that has been outstanding for a long time.
We have seen Mnangagwa fashion statutory instruments speedily for minor things, so he can work with speed if it suits him.
Releasing the Chihambakwe report on the Gukurahundi massacres would be a good starting point to truth telling.
Then the survivors may start the painful journey towards healing and forgiveness.
Mnangagwa and the perpetrators of this heinous crime cannot dictate terms to survivors.
While the graves of the Gukurahundi victims were still fresh, Mnangagwa opposed the publication of the Chihambakwe report, arguing that it was “solely for use by the government” and it was “sensitive”.
It does not appear that the victims and survivors have benefited from the report being kept a secret.
Is it possible that refusing to publish the report was meant to protect the perpetrators?
Honouring Nkomo in words is good, but is not enough.
Those genuinely wanting to remember and honour him must push for the release of the Chihambakwe report and begin the process of exorcising the ghosts of this terrible chapter in our nation.
Gukurahundi cannot be swept under the carpet.
Precious and innocent lives were lost and survivors need to hear someone say sorry, and do the right thing.
The lessons from Gukurahundi are huge. The violence with which this country was liberated contributed to Gukurahundi.
Some of those responsible for Gukurahundi are also responsible for recent political abductions, torture, murder and disappearances.
The manner in which Nkomo and Zapu were dealt with is the same way the opposition has been dealt with ever since. How long will we allow this to continue?
- Trevor Ncube is Alpha Media Holdings chairman