Many Zimbabweans on Friday commemorated the Unity Accord signed December 22, 1987, by President Robert Mugabe and the late Joshua Nkomo, establishing a truce between Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Nkomo's rival PF-ZAPU parties, setting the stage for Nkomo to serve as vice president until his death in 1999.
Government security forces loyal to ZANU-PF had fought PF-ZAPU-controlled units in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in a crackdown in which an estimated 20,000 people, mostly civilians, died between 1982 and the signing of the accord. The pact effectively merged Nkomo's PF-ZAPU into the dominant ZANU-PF party.
On Wednesday, State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa was quoted by the state-controlled Herald newspaper as saying the historic accord unified the nation. Mutasa said that "ever since 1987, the problem of animosity has stopped, people are now united, working together except for a few misguided elements" in the opposition.
Both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change offered differing interpretations of the event. Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Morgan Tsvangirai faction called unity a fallacy, saying ZANU-PF policies have divided Zimbabwe.
Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, deputy secretary general of the MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara, said President Mugabe had failed to unite the country because he has tended towards a dictatorial style of rule.
Political analyst and Harare critic John Makumbe told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mugabe missed an opportunity to unite the nation.