by PAMENUS TUSO
BULAWAYO, (CAJ News) – A former Zimbabwe cabinet minister and liberation war intelligence supremo has made startling claims regarding the mass massacres south of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, claiming the atrocities that left thousands dead were planned well before independence, with the
involvement of colonial master, Britain.
Dumiso Dabengwa, an opposition leader of the revived Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), whose original version was pressured to join
Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to curb the bloodshed, alleged the atrocities, known as Gukurahundi (loosely translated to ‘the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains’) were planned long before the 1979 Lancaster House talks that ushered in independence a year later.
Dabengwa, one of senior ZAPU leaders jailed during the atrocities that claimed the lives of an estimated 20 000 civilians in the party’s strongholds of Matabeleland and Midlands Provinces, said this was planned meticulously when it became apparent ZAPU would emerge victorious in the elections.
Britain is said to have preferred Robert Mugabe’s ZANU ahead of Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU.
“Gukurahundi was planned very meticulously and I think it was planned as early as the Lancaster talks when it became clear that the British will
prefer ZANU to be victors in the 1980 elections. It is then that they planned to make sure that ZAPU and ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army ‘ZIPRA’, (ZAPU)’s military wing) was the enemy,” Dabengwa alleged.
He was speaking in the second city of Bulawayo at a public dialogue organized by the Southern African Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust, a regional think-tank headquartered in Zimbabwe.
Dabengwa claimed a senior former British major made the confession in the presence of Mugabe, Emmerson Mngangagwa, now president, the late Solomon Mujuru (the country’s first army chief) and Lookout Masuku (ZIPRA commander) and General Peter Walls, the Head of the Armed Forces of Rhodesia.
It could not be ascertained when the said confession regarding the deployment of the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade.
“One of the majors in the intelligence services had called us for a security briefing on a Friday on what potential threats Zimbabwe would
“After analysing the political situation in neighbouring countries such as South African, Botswana, and Namibia the major said the only threat is Zapu and ZIPRA. I am saying this for the first time,” Dabengwa said.
While Britain’s alleged role in the massacres has always been a matter of speculation, it is the first time an official has given such sentiments.
At the height of the atrocities, in 1984, Edinburgh University awarded him an honorary degree for “services to education in Africa.”
In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II conferred Mugabe a knighthood. The honours were revoked in 2007 and 2008 for alleged human rights violation by Mugabe following seizures of white owned farms in the country.
Dabengwa, the former Home Affairs Minister was arrested in 1982 alongside Masuku on allegations of treason. They were acquitted in 1983 but remained behind bars until their release in 1987 ahead of the unity deal between the two rival parties, culmination in the formation of ZANU- Patriotic Front (PF).
Dabengwa, home affairs minister from 1992 to 2000, meanwhile said while Mnangagwa’s recent signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation
Commission Bill (NPRC) into law was a step in the right direction in healing the nation, Mnangagwa’s government should first acknowledge the
atrocities and apologise to the victims.
Government has been tight lipped, with Mugabe describing them as “a moment of madness” at the burial of Nkomo in 1999.
The issue has remained one of the major tests to Mnangagwa’s presidency after the army masterminded Mugabe’s ouster in November last year.
Recently, activists have set up an online petition to force him to establish a truth and justice commission to bring closure to the Gukurahundi killings as pressure mounts on the government to deal with the matter.
Some youths were also arrested over Mnangagwa’s alleged involvement during the Gukurahundi.
Mnangagwa’s visit to South Africa in December was also met with some protests. He has been quoted as denying his involvement, blaming the
allegations on political opponents.
“Gukurahundi was genocide. We will not stop speaking until an apology has been made. It was genocide and that is the premise we must begin to trace the issue. There is still some obstacles to deal with peace and reconciliation in this country,” Dabengwa said.
The issue is the most emotive in Zimbabwean politics and the main cause of inherent tribalism in the country.
The atrocities were carried out in the largely-Ndebele and Kalanga minorities in a country where the Shona tribe is 80 percent of the 16-million population.
Religious leader, Pastor Ray Mosti, echoed Dabengwa’s sentiments when he stressed the need for national dialogue on the mass killings.
“For dialogue to succeed, all stakeholders need to buy into it. Shared national values are necessary in bringing the Gukurahundi to finality. Government should repeal laws that hinder people from speaking about this issue,” Motsi said.
Sipho Malunga, the former Senior Defence Attorney in the Tribunal for the prosecution of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in East Timor,
raised concern at the suppression of critics of Gukurahundi.
“The voices of the Gukurahundi victims are not coming out. There are many reasons why the victims have not been given the opportunity to speak. The victims were never asked how they feel.
“The very perpetrators who committed these crimes remains in power and authority .They have retained control of the territory, the security and
movement of the victims. So in what contest can a victim speak?” asked Malunga.
Professor Martin Rupiya, an academic, urged the government to emulate Togo and Ethiopia, which he praised for handling similar conflicts well.
– CAJ News