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Zimbabweans Urged to Push for Private Citizens' Bill to Address 5 Brigade Atrocities

  • Gibbs Dube

FILE: "Signing the unity accord:" In 1987, after years of violence against supporters, Joshua Nkomo (Zimbabwe African People's Union, ZAPU) signed an accord for a unity government with Mr Mugabe. Atrist Maseko depicts this moment with blood pouring onto Nkomo's cowed head.

FILE: "Signing the unity accord:" In 1987, after years of violence against supporters, Joshua Nkomo (Zimbabwe African People's Union, ZAPU) signed an accord for a unity government with Mr Mugabe. Atrist Maseko depicts this moment with blood pouring onto Nkomo's cowed head.

Zimbabweans have been urged to push for a private citizens’ bill, which will result in the tackling of the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s that left an estimated 20,000 people dead, hundreds displaced and others maimed.

Dr. Shepherd Mpofu of the University of Johannesburg told VOA Studio 7 some lawmakers can be used to introduce the bill in parliament.

“It (bill) can be sponsored by citizens and pushed through one MP (Member of Parliament). We need to make it clear that it’s time this got addressed and those responsible have to come out.”

According to Parliament of Zimbabwe, bills can be classified into three types mainly relating to the source of the legislation and interest the legislation seeks to address.

Public bills relate to matters of public interest on policy and may be introduced by Members of Parliament and private bills are promoted by a person or body of persons whether corporate or not, for the particular interest or benefits of that person or body of persons.

At the same time, hybrid bills are public bills that affect certain private interests of where a private bill has a scope so wide that it affects public interest of policy.

According to Dr. Mpofu, Zimbabweans should take advantage of these parliamentary provisions to sponsor a private bill that could ensure that the Five Brigade atrocities are addressed.

He said if Zimbabweans have to be united, they have to identify a specific entity such as a political party that would push such interests in parliament for the benefit of relatives and victims of the massacres.

Dr. Mpofu said the ruling party is not interested in addressing this matter. “… From where I am standing, Zanu PF will continue in power and they will continue to ignore this issue. They can only pretend to address it like the formation of a ministry of healing and reconciliation … but was there any healing at that time … there wasn’t.

“And now we need to think beyond civic organizations because most of them have been around for a long time but they have neglected this issue of genocide. One has to ask why it has been neglected.”

He further noted that Zimbabweans have been given a chance to address the issue, which has hogged the limelight after former Education Minister David Coltart, in his autobiography ‘The Struggle Continues’, made a reference to the Five Brigade massacres.

Coltart quoted The Chronicle newspaper, which once reported in the 1980s, that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa allegedly compared so-called dissidents and their supporters in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces as cockroaches that needed to be destroyed through the use of a pesticide called DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane).

The vice president at that time was the Minister of Security under President Robert Mugabe’s government. He has threatened to sue Coltart, who insists that he stands by what he wrote in the book.

“This is a point of departure for Zimbabweans … If we miss this point we might not get it in the near future,” said Dr. Mpofu.

Reverend Ray Motsi of the Baptist Church, who is also a member of the National Transitional Justice Working Group, said there is need to urgently address this issue.

“I really do believe that the best way to deal with it is to actually find a way in which we begin to help the victims who are struggling, who are not able to move forward even if there is no acceptance of wrong on the side of Zanu PF and those people who were responsible.

“We also need to find some psycho-social approaches in terms of development, building more schools in Matabeleland (and Midlands) and providing some capital injection so that people of Matabeleland can start looking after themselves.”

Rev. Motsi’s PHD focused on the North Korean-trained Five Brigade atrocities, which were once described by President Mugabe as “a moment of madness”. The Zimbabwean leader has never publicly apologized for the massacres.

Mr. Mugabe once set up a team to probe the atrocities, which was headed by lawyer Simplicious Chihambakwe. Results of the Chihambakwe Commission of Inquiry have never been made public. The government has not even released the number of people who were killed by the Five Brigade.

Various independent groups, including a report compiled by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace titled ‘Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace’, put the figure of civilians who were killed at almost 20,000. The government has neither confirmed nor denied that state security agents and the national army unit killed such a large number of people.

President Mugabe’s government deployed the Five Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands regions to allegedly quell the dissident menace, which they linked to then rival, PF Zapu leader, Joshua Nkomo. The late Nkomo denied any links to the dissidents and had to flee Zimbabwe when armed men, believed to be Gukurahundi operatives, raided his home in Pelandaba suburb, Bulawayo, where they killed a bodyguard and several other people.

In his book, The Story of My Life, Nkomo accused President Mugabe of attempting to kill him and exterminate his supporters. In 1987, his party merged with Mr. Mugabe’s Zanu PF leading to the formation of a unity government, which over the years has experienced serious friction.

One of the key Zapu leaders, former ZIPRA military supremo Dumiso Dabengwa, pulled out of the unity accord, noting that Zapu officials were not being given due recognition in the government by President Mugabe. ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army) was Zapu’s armed wing, which fought alongside the African National Congress of South Africa’s Umkhonto Wesizwe during the war of liberation of the 1970s.

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