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Zimbabwe Healing Minister Draws Historical Parallels & Touches a Nerve

Controversy has been brewing in Zimbabwe over recent comments on the historical roots of violence in the country by Co-Minister for Healing and Reconciliation of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Some in the country's southwestern Matabeleland region have accused her of slighting the 19th century Ndebele King Mzilikazi after she allegedly referred to him and his warriors as a "mob" of cattle thieves who used violence to expand his realm. She mentioned other rulers and the British colonizers of the former Rhodesia, but her remarks about Mzilikazi, who led a band of Zulus north into Zimbabwe from present day South Africa, struck a nerve.

Security around the minister was said to have been tightened as she pursued a program of outreach to traditional chiefs and community leaders with fellow healing ministers John Nkomo representing ZANU-PF and Gibson Sibanda of the MDC wing of Arthur Mutambara.

Sources said Holland delivered the offending speech in Mozambique, naming Ndiweni, Munhumutapa and Mzilikazi as rulers who built their kingdoms with violence. But an audio file circulating on the Internet only quotes her comments regarding Mzilikazi, sparking outrage although Holland herself comes from the Ndebele ethnic group Mzilikazi founded.

VOA was unable to reach Holland for comment on her remarks and the furor they created.

Mr. Tsvangirai was very displeased at the insensitivity of the comments, his spokesman James Maridadi told reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

But Women’s Trust Executive Director Luta Shaba said Holland should not be attacked for bringing up unpleasant or inconvenient aspects of Zimbabwe’s history.

But London-based political commentator Brilliant Mhlanga said Holland should apologize.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...