It is a big step for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to declare that his government will not ignore Gukurahundi. Denial has been the only chosen path for ZANU PF. We have witnessed the damaging political effects of denying justice to Mthwakazi citizens, enforcing poverty and dehumanising Matabeles while perpetuating ignorance that feeds into Mashonaland delusions of supremacy; coexistence has been impossible.

Speaking in a widely televised interview in Davos, Switzerland on the 24th January 2018, Mnangagwa refused to apologise for his commissions and omissions as the security minister during the Gukurahundi period, a time that oversaw murders of between 20,000 and 40,000 people in a targeted assault in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands region by a specially trained 5th Brigade military unit with full State knowledge and approval.

What has been evident since the 1987 Unity Accord is the dismissive manner the ZANU PF leadership has approached the Gukurahundi atrocities; the leadership has refused to acknowledge that the activities were State-sanctioned; they have however, created an alternative reality that minimises that murderous operation into a ‘moment of madness’ – a perception that allows them to emotionally disengage from the truth.

As Mnangagwa made an unconvincing attempt to evade the question on whether he would at last take responsibility and apologise for his role in the Gukurahundi atrocities; he told the interviewer that the best he had done to account for his part was to sign into law, the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill (NPRC) which has activated the operations of the NPRC.

What has Mnangagwa done so far?

President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill (NPRC) into law on the 5th of January 2018, making operational the Commission that was appointed in 2016. The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) main tasks are to promote national healing, peace, and reconciliation in the country.

Commission mandate

According to Section 252 of the Constitution, the NPRC’s functions are to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.

The Constitution says the Commission must develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

The Commission should also bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice among other functions.

The importance of authenticity

It is important that Mnangagwa recognises that reconciliation will not happen as a part of a normal course of events. It has to be intentional; he must approach the Gukurahundi subject matter with the right aims and goals in mind. The Commission that he has instituted must be an outcome of sincerity and not a ploy to cover his tracks. He must be free from hypocrisy and walk his talk.

For there to be reconciliation, there must be truth. In dealing with the Gukurahundi past, sincerity will be the biggest tool; what people want is honesty to allow for a peaceful closure that allows us to safely reconstruct our memories of that period in a place of emotional peace and integrity.

Mnangagwa who as the security minister was at the core of decisions and interventions taken at the time must be more concerned with the truth, national peace and rehabilitation than extending his political career.

Mthwakazi will not play victim

In its dealing with the Gukurahundi past, Matabeleland stands not as a victim, but rather to bear witness to the political injustices that laid the foundations of the present disaster in our land and beyond. When we speak out, we do so not only for ourselves, but also for those communities who have similar stories but may never have an opportunity to be heard. Our focus is justice and not vengeance; there is peace in justice but a continuation of ruin in vengeance. Our goal is restoration of sight, transformation and renewed consciousness in our land.

The challenge lies squarely with the State which must appreciate that the truth is the golden path to reconciliation. It is neither too late nor too much to expect the process to be guided by the spirit of transparency, anchored by sincerity and not ulterior political motives.

Composition of the Commission

The composition of the Commission is a sensitive issue that should have been handled with the seriousness it deserved. One would have hoped that it has finally dawned on the ZANU PF regime that it cannot continue to ask Ndebeles and Shonas to coexist by having Ndebeles bow their heads and rely on a solution that, at best, is only good for Mashonaland. ZANU PF has normalised the perceived supremacy of ethnic Shona people and gone ahead to select commissioners without proper consultation. Thus, the composition has itself drawn criticism from the Matabeleland public who question its apparent misrepresentation of the region. The nine-member Commission headed by vice President Kembo Mohadi is controversially dominated by ethnic Shona people from Mashonaland.

Commissioners

  1. Retired Justice Selo Maselo Nare (Chairperson)
  2. Lilian Chigwedere (Deputy Chairperson)
  3. Dr Geoffrey Chada
  4. Dr Golden Chekenyere
  5. Patience Chiradza
  6. Rev Charles Masunungure
  7. Netty Musanhu
  8. Leslie Ncube
  9. Choice Ndoro

In a well-articulated criticism of the composition, mandate and the credibility of the Commission, prominent Mthwakazi artist Cont Mhlanga (watch video below) rightly questions the perception that the Commission is a State innovation arguing that various Mthwakazi organisations and individuals had been pursuing justice for Gukurahundi atrocities long before the Commission was set up.

Testimonies from victims

Below is a select of chilling testimonies from Gukurahundi victims and a former 5th Brigade soldier.

Conclusion
We hope Mnangagwa is not playing politics with Mthwakazi’s emotions and that the peace, stability and reconciliation he dreams of fits in with our expectations of the freedom to be who we are and be close to the decisions that affect our lives. As people rejoice over Mnangagwa’s declared intentions to deal with the Gukurahundi past, they must not lose their resolve to focus on the right things and be consistent in reminding the man that he must never forget that the highest responsibility lies not in the words spoken, but in living by them; we will believe Mnangagwa when he has delivered on his promise.

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