President Mnangagwa Gukurahundi initiative must put victims at its centre

October 31, 2022
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa | Report Focus News
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Gukurahundi initiatives, which will be led by chiefs, are likely to fail because of disagreements and failure to reconcile the views of victims.

Without a national consensus and agreed position on how the emotive issue could be addressed, piecemeal efforts will collapse. On October 17, Mnangagwa launched the Gukurahundi roadmap to closure at the Bulawayo State House, which is to be used by the chiefs.

To give the devil his dues, Mnangagwa is at least trying to address an issue that has long simmered on Zimbabwe’s political landscape like an ugly scar on our collective psyche.

But since Mnangagwa started the engagement with the traditional leaders and Matabeleland civic organisations under the banner of the Matabeleland Collective, he has faced opposition from CSOs and victims who say he was one of the perpetrators of the genocide that killed over 20 000 people, and, therefore, cannot lead the healing process.

The counter argument is that Mnangagwa is the State President, and therefore, he has an obligation to lead such efforts, or at least drive the process.

Organisations that claim to represent victims such as Ibhetshu likaZulu, Post Independent Survival Trust (Pist), political parties such as Zapu, Mthwakazi Republic Party, and traditional leaders such as Chief Mathema, former Chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni and late Chief Vezi Maduna have come out to say Mnangagwa and his government have no legal standing or locus standi to co-ordinate or lead the Gukurahundi processes or impose conditions on how the processes should be carried out. They view the current process as being meant to cleanse the perpetrators, rather than help victims find closure and allow for national healing.

They argue that Mnangagwa’s roadmap is structured in a way that it guides the traditional leaders to engage the victims and excludes the perpetrators. There is no provision for confession, admission of guilty or apology for the atrocities, they say.

A better alternative would be for government to consult them and agree on the way forward, with the buy-in of everyone. Alternatively, they say Mnangagwa could appoint an independent commission, similar to the Motlanthe Commission he appointed to probe the August 1, 2018 shootings.

What is clear is that the nation needs healing and reconciliation and that the Gukurahundi issue has dragged on long enough. Despite claims by some government ministers that the Unity Accord, signed by the leaders of Zanu PF and PF Zapu, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, both late, sealed the resolution of the issue, we beg to differ.

It is also clear that Mnangagwa recognises this, hence his move to have the chiefs lead his roadmap.

But the initiative must be victim-friendly, and not seek to protect the perpetrators.