Zimbabwe's new president implicated in 1980s massacres
End of year message: 2017 was a watershed year in Zimbabwe's political life - President of Zapu-Dabengwa
A Mugabe dynasty was abhorred by many Zimbabweans
In hindsight, the tipping point for the accelerated overthrow of Robert Mugabe and his eventual replacement as President by Emmerson Mnangagwa was reached when it became clear that Mugabe was going along with moves to elevate his wife, Grace Mugabe, to leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF Women' League. This positioned her for the slot of Vice-President of party and state at the expense of Emmerson Mnangagwa in the expected special party congress. The possibility of a Mugabe dynasty was abhorred by all in the opposition and also sharpened divisions between the main factions in the ruling party. For ZAPU and indeed for the ZPRA Veterans Association, this shaped our opposition to the status-quo.
War veterans' associations united against anti-people tendencies
One of the remarkable developments of 2017 was the growth of cooperation between war veterans' associations historically divided by alignment to ZAPU and to ZANU. They opposed political excesses and related economic corruption and unequivocally put these down to departure from the values of the liberation struggle (for independence and freedom). For the first time since the late 1970s those who were involved in the armed struggle found common cause that went beyond their differences as they had done during the Patriotic Front. The arrogance of the Mugabe regime convinced war veterans that if they stood divided in the face of impunity there was no chance of change. Furthermore this renewed collaboration would facilitate the involvement of all stakeholders in the transition to a democratic and accountable order.
The veterans' associations held a series of meetings and consultations that would culminate in a massive rally on 18 November 2017 to be followed a march into State House to physically eject Mugabe.
Mugabe regime goaded the army to intervene in crisis
The threat to army leaders as factional fights in the ruling party intensified made intervention inevitable, resulting in the military "Operation Restore Legacy" shortly before the massive demonstration planned for 18 November by the war veterans. This popular entry by the army into the crisis created space for ZANU-PF elements to hijack the demonstration and pose as previously "silent" opponents of Mugabe. The ensuing veneer of legitimacy and legality provided by a compliant parliament was then used to bypass the more radical cleansing of the state and to pave way for uncontested perpetuation of ZANU in power, albeit with a military core.
Presidential powers survive change of guard and signal limited change
The massive powers enjoyed by Robert Mugabe have been inherited intact by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who happens to have been an architect of some of them and has been a loyal apprentice. There are many who were surprised at the choice (retention?) of cabinet ministers from elements who had poor reputations even by the standards of the Mugabe regime, suspected of shady deals. However, this failure to escape the Mugabe past was in some ways inevitable once the emerging change was presented as a ZANU affair backed by the military and other parts of the security sector. Lack of an inclusive agenda meant falling back on the inherited arsenal of presidential powers and demonstration of continuity even in making of appointments. Significantly, the trend of politicizing the military was taken to new heights, with serving officers moving into key political offices without a cooling period. The security sector must not be used as a party political tool and its effectiveness ultimately depends on professionalism and defense of the public interest.
Reforms provide a chance to outgrow the backward Mugabe regime
President Mugabe will be remembered for resisting or stalling on reforms that were due according to the Constitution adopted in 2013. Notable lack of progress is evident in the establishment and operation of independent Commissions. The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa can redeem itself by ensuring that the Human Rights and the Peace and Reconciliation Commissions are taken more seriously. Violence supported or perpetrated by state institutions, such as the Gukurahundi massacre of over 20,000 unarmed civilians in the 1980s in Matebeleland and the Midlands, must get some closure through appropriate engagement of affected families and areas by government.The enjoyment and protection of civil liberties is at the heart of our liberation struggle, including freedom of assembly which is still infringed by application of outmoded practices inherited from the colonial rule books.
The approaching elections due in 2018 must be preceded by the strengthening of the capacity and independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Without free and fair elections there will be no meaningful or lasting peace.
Devolution a litmus test
There have been no signals from the newly-installed regime of President Mnangagwa that fundamental change in the structure of government along the lines of the 2013 Constitution will get priority. Devolution of power to the provinces needs to move from general platitudes to become a key feature of how all parts of the country will set local priorities and share in their resource base. There are many examples of marginalization and asset-stripping that became possible only because of central control, patronage and abuse of unchecked authority. This is why our party retains the implementation of devolution provisions in the constitution as a top demand and platform for change.
Economic environment/discipline and investment
The new regime has committed itself to restoring discipline in the economy, not least by making the right noises against corruption and economic crimes. We hope this will continue in the next six months or so left before scheduled 2018 elections. This would lay the ground for reconstruction premised on internal confidence and a favorable environment for attracting foreign direct investment. Even a resource-rich country like Zimbabwe cannot afford leakages of billions of dollars from the economy without efforts to plug the gravy train.
Incentives for return of Diaspora
The new President has made welcome calls on Zimbabweans abroad to come and develop the country. The economic and political conditions that have driven predominantly young people to neighboring countries and even further afield have to be addressed because the emigrants have drive and rich expertise that can benefit the country and themselves. Under the Mugabe regime there were insufficient efforts to prepare for effective participation of those in the Diaspora in the elections. We hope that those who can do so will make arrangements to register and take part in the forthcoming elections.
Separation of party and state on service delivery
Reports are still reaching us of ruling party structures being used to control seed and fertilizer distribution instead of state institutions. These carry-overs from the Mugabe regime constitute the worst examples of abuse of state power for party political purposes. We shall be vigilant to expose and agitate against such practices, and hope that the current regime will also discourage these practices from the past.
Daring to hope for the liberation dream
ZAPU is the oldest surviving political brand in Zimbabwe, having gone from mass mobilization and peaceful campaigns in the 1960s before spearheading the transition to armed struggle for freedom and independence. I mention this in order to remind our people that the fundamentals that drove different generations to sacrifice life and limb have in many cases eluded us. Our right to peace and security has been tampered with for over thirty years, and even when we had a chance to acquire and benefit from our land this has been distorted and abused by the ruling clique. Our manifesto and key policy documents will outline the way in which we propose restoration of sanity on the land, and put the interests and needs of the people at the center of government in general.
I think that it is not too much to hope that fundamental change is possible and a dividend for the long struggle for democracy and accountability that resulted in the removal of Robert Mugabe in 2017. On that note I wish all Zimbabweans a Happy New Year and new start in 2018.
Current Situation in Zimbabwe
The country has for decades been under a plethora of problems emanating from corruption, patronage, looting, tribalism and nepotism, suffocation of democracy and democratic space, lawlessness due to complete disregard of the constitution by the ruling elite.
As a result of the above, Zimbabwe witnessed alarming rates of unemployment, unprecedented poverty, collapsed social services such as health and education, a collapsed financial services sector, rendering the country a basket case for failed states in Africa.
The actions by the Zimbabwean defense forces are a culmination of continuous efforts by Zimbabwe's opposition parties to find and proffer solutions to the problems bedeviling the country.It is unfortunate for Zimbabwe that the country's situation had to degenerate into the current impasse, which we believe is the least of resorts aimed at addressing the national problem, but ZAPU would like to recommend to the military to facilitate expeditious return of the country to civilian rule as soon as their operation is over.
ZAPU, as subscribers to human life sanctity, pray to all concerned in this difficult time to continue preserving life and also prioritize the welfare of Zimbabweans in all their actions.
Going forward, ZAPU anticipates beginning of a transitional process to swiftly normalize the situation in the country. A broadly inclusive transitional authority must be put in place. It must, of necessity, include opposition parties and be accommodative of the diversity that obtains in this country.
The transitional authority, as priority, may be tasked with addressing issues of devolution, electoral reforms as well as coming up with a clear program for the resuscitation of the economy, in preparation for a democratic electoral process.
We suggest a deliberate undertaking to level the elections playing field to allow for a dispute free election that is free, fair and credible.
by Iphithule Maphosa
Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU).
"The Bhalagwe Commemoration did not take place because police did not “approve” the notification lodged by Ibhetshu likaZulu, the organizers. Instead on the day the police set up road blocks and barred access from the trunk road into the turn-off to the site where bodies of civilians were dumped into disused shafts following killings during “Gukurahundi” operations by the Fifth Brigade of Zimbabwe’s army. The short address from Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, who was accompanied by other senior leaders of ZAPU, is reproduced below. A few copies were given out at the road block but the lighting of candles on the ground was stopped by riot police who scattered the candles with baton sticks."
Gukurahundi Commemoration at Bhalagwe, Matopo North, 21 October 2017
Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa, ZAPU President: Speaking Notes
Today, 21 October 2017, we are here in Bhalagwe to remember what should not have happened to the people of Matebeleland and the Midlands, and indeed what should not have happened to anyone in newly independent Zimbabwe. We are witnesses to mass killings on a scale that future generations may find difficult to comprehend, yet even we ourselves at times wish it was just a bad dream.
Heartless and well-planned ethnic slaughter
When ZANU-PF gained control of Zimbabwe in April 1980 following our independence from Britain, it did not take long to show its intent to destroy ZAPU. In October 1980 Robert Mugabe, who was Prime Minister at the time, came to an agreement with the government of North Korea for the training of the Fifth Brigade. The next step was the arrival in 1981 of 106 military instructors to train the Fifth Brigade which, according to former Vice-President, was recruited from the Zezuru ethnic group from Zvimba jn Mashonaland West.
As it turned out, the purpose of the Fifth Brigade was to carry out “ethnic cleansing” dubbed “Gukurahundi”as well as crushing ZAPU to pave the way for a one-party state controlled by ZANU=PF. False allegations were made against ZPRA cadres and some of us were arrested and subsequently detained without trial. At the end of January 1983 Mugabe unleashed his 5th Brigade on a genocidal expedition in Matebeleland and Ndebele-speaking parts of the Midlands. Over 20,000 civilians were killed yet the excuse of the operation was that it was to fight so-called “dissidents” who were threatening the security of the state.
In Matebeleland South, Bhalagwe became a notorious place of sadistic beatings and torture. We recall with sadness and outrage that this place experienced daily deaths as a result of these cruel acts of armed men. Many families can attest o the constant digging of graves by survivors. At the same time, some of the bodies of victims were taken away in truckloads and dumped in Antelope Mine shafts.
A solemn remembrance
We recall and recount these gruesome facts of the “Gukurahundi” massacres so that those who died unnecessary and painful deaths may not be forgotten for the great price they did not have to pay, but which they paid so soon after their children, siblings, parents and friends died in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
Today ZAPU joins Ibhetshu LikaZulu to pay respect for the people who were buried in mass graves at this place and those whose bodies were dumped in Antelope Mine shafts. All the people buried unceremoniously died with their hopes for peace and a better life that should have come with independence. To attain this many had fought with guns, gave food and medicine to the ZPRA forces, or provided the fighters with intelligence on the enemy. We therefore hope that this is the first of many commemorations to come.
Independence does not necessarily mean freedom and human rights
It is a rich irony that Dr. Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo who is universally recognized as “Father Zimbabwe” hailed from this traumatized district. He summed up the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of the people by reportedly observing that late in his life he realized that independence does not necessarily mean freedom. In an independent Zimbabwe he was forced by circumstances to swallow the 22 December 1987 “Unity Accord” as the price for stopping the “Gukurahundi” massacres. This terrible “accord” entailed the incorporation of PF-ZAPU into ZANU-PF and the unstated wiping out of ZAPU and ZPRA history, and not just appropriating institutions but rebranding heroes and heroines of our struggle. Since ZAPU re-emerged in 2010 we are rebuilding our legacy and our role in creating a free, democratic and prosperous state. We shall intensify this by playing a constructive role in forging unity of opposition forces to remove entrenched ZANU-PF rule in the 2018 elections.
One of the failures of the last 30 years which we shall tackle is putting closure to the tragic history surrounding “Gukurahundi”. For a start, there has been no official apology for the unwarranted destruction of life and property of over 20,000 unarmed civilians by the security apparatus of the state.
Thirty years after the start of the killings the closest the ZANU regime has come to acknowledging responsibility was when President Mugabe called the episode “a moment of madness”. The unrepentant perpetrators of this crime against humanity have lost many opportunities to own up and to begin a healing process that starts with a sincere apology to families of victims, a program for redress including negotiated compensation even so late in the day. These are some of the issues that we hoped would be dealt with by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission established under the 2013 Constitution. There was a glimmer of hope when the distinguished Advocate Cyril Ndebele was appointed as the first Chairman of this Commission in February 2016, but his unfortunate death within the same year robbed the country of an opportunity to deal intelligently and decisively with the healing process. We owe this to ourselves and to future generations.
The outside world needs consistency
Zimbabwe is part of the global community, and at the time of “Gukurahundi” was more rational in dealing with former colonial powers. The Western World which has been fortifying its own human rights was either unaware of the scale of the genocidal killings in Matebeleland or in some cases more concerned about perceived geo-political interests. It has since become clear that shameless tribal killers are not respecters of race either. In a perverse way, unregulated violence following the chaotic occupation of white farms improved awareness of the injustices inflicted on the defenseless Ndebele-speaking people. Archive material now declassified outside Zimbabwe is coming out with evidence of deliberate Western silence whereas some restraint could have been applied to reduce the level of cruelty and loss of lives. We hope that the indivisibility of human rights will be a guiding principle for dealing with instances of state violence.