Zimbabwe on Thursday marked 24 years since rival liberation chiefs Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo signed a unity accord to end hostilities between the Zanu party of then-Prime Minister Mugabe, and the PF-Zapu of Nkomo.
But many question the relevance of Unity Day particularly following the formation of the power-sharing government by Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, and the re-launch of Zapu.
Government sources say December 22nd is an officially gazetted holiday – but without budget support. This Unity Day passed with few speeches by senior politicians – nothing from Mr. Mugabe or any of his principal governing partners.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told Voice of America his party will proceed on Friday with rallies and festivities to mark Unity Day. ZANU-PF says its an important time to ensure that the peace established by Mr. Mugabe and the late vice president Nkomo remains intact.
The deal marked an official end to fighting between the two rival liberation parties and the massacres carried out in Matabeleland in the 1980s among others by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
But Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa said the Unity Day is a partisan ZANU-PF holiday which should be amended to become national to celebrate unity, peace and diversity across the country.
ZAPU and the MDC formations also say the unity day is irrelevant, particularly in the provinces of Matebeleland and Midlands where scars remain from the Gukurahundi purge in which more than 20 000 civilians died.
ZANU-PF chief parliamentary whip Joram Gumbo said what happened in that period was “a moment of madness” and that it is now time to forgive and forget.
“If we want to go back into history and say we never forgive then we cannot have a country at all. If we want to go back to the history of this country we will go back to the Matabeleland and the Mashonaland uprisings, and we will go back to the time when whites were killing blacks - then we will have mass graves of people who died a long time ago,” said Gumbo.
“In 1980 we forgave the whites and we are living together today,” Gumbo said.
Zapu chairman for Bulawayo retired Colonel Lazarus Ray Ncube questioned whose madness it was.
“It’s very good of him (Gumbo) to say people must forgive and forget but one question that has never been answered was whose madness was it?”
“The conflict is even more glaring taking into account that whoever perpetrated violence doesn’t seem to recognize the magnitude of that violence up to this day," said Ncube. "And therefore it would not make any sense to celebrate this day when those people who saw it all are even suffering more today, let alone to say those people who were killed at that time are still lying in the open even some bones are found in the bush.”
The ZAPU official said Unity Day used to be an important day in the country but has now become a day for only ‘winners and losers’.