Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko was taking flak Monday after declaring that the Gukurahundi killings in Matabeleland and Midlands were a conspiracy by the West that President Mugabe had nothing to do with.
Mphoko argued in a weekend interview that “...gukurahundi had nothing to do with (President) Mugabe – nothing. That is a fact. People can say what they want, but that was a western conspiracy.”
Activists and rights advocates have responded with outrage, accusing Mr. Mphoko of “protesting too much” in order to curry favor with his boss, who has never really denied his involvement in the massacres.
It is estimated that 20,000 or so people - mainly civilians from the predominantly Ndebele-speaking provinces of Matabeleland and Midlands - were massacred in cold blood by Mr. Mugabe's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
Mphoko is also Minister of National Healing.
President Mugabe has characterized Gukurahundi as a "moment of madness" but has never apologized or appeared willing to talk about the incident.
Analyst Zenzele Ndebele, who produced a documentary on the 1980s killings, said Mphoko's absolution of Mr. Mugabe was regrettable.