1987 Unity Accord Remains A Farce

By Sij Ncube

BULAWAYO – ZIMBABAWE on Monday marked the 27th anniversary of the Unity Accord forged between Zanu PF and the former PF Zapu characterised by low-key events but people of Matabeleland are adamant there is nothing to celebrate, citing the continued marginalisation of the southern region.

President Robert Mugabe and the late former Vice President Joshua Nkomo signed the Unity Accord on 22 December 1987, culminating in the day declared a public holiday.

The pact effectively signalled the end of political disturbances in the two provinces, halting a state of emergency and dissident activities in the two provinces.

For nearly five years the two provinces fell under the spell of state security agents, especially the Fifth Brigade, which engaged in extra judiciary killings, rapes and other human rights abuses.

An estimated 20 000 defenceless villages were killed during what has been termed the Gukurahundi genocide.

So when Mugabe and Nkomo were beamed on national television toasting to the forging of the accord, naturally, Zimbabweans were excited and heaved a sigh of relief in the strong belief the newly found unity would usher in development and opportunities to the long marginalised people of the region.

But 27 years after the inking of the accord, analysts say the pact remains largely a monumental farce and an embarrassment as the region remains marginalised in comparison to other political provinces of Zimbabwe.

Zanu PF politburo member Dr Sikhanyiso Duke Ndlovu, in his Unity Day message said this year’s commemorations “must make us take stock of what has happened before, introspect and ask ourselves what we have done to make our people benefit from unity.”

But analysts say unfortunately, the people of the southern region remain hungry, industries are closed, unemployment is spiralling out of control, there still travel to Harare to apply for liquor licences, passports and other important public documents.

The Zambezi Water Project, seen as the only permanent solution to the regions perennial water woes, remains in limbo despite the fact that it has the potential to turn Matabeleland and its hinterlands into greenbelts.

The list of unfulfilled promises since December 1987 remains long hence a general consensus in the region there is nothing to celebrate about the Unity Accord today except nostalgia, analysts say.

“Unity Day has been abused for political expedience and that has devalued Unity Day to just another holiday,” says analyst Lennox Mhlanga.  

Nqobani Nyathi, another analyst, said Zimbabweans have been forced to recognise a political pact between two parties “which in fact was an attempt to impose a one party state.”

Strike Mkandla, the secretary general of revived Zapu, told VOP that the unity pact has been used by the ruling Zanu PF to push its hegemony instead of promoting national cohesion and a sense of shared values.

“Allocation of land, distribution of seed and farm inputs and permits for public meetings are some of the most glaring areas in which communities, non-governmental organisations and political formations have experienced partisan use of state machinery,” said Mkandla.

Candles Mylo, a Zimbabwe based in the diaspora charged that the unity accord has been used by the Zanu PF leadership to suppress resources in Matabeleland.

“They have made sure that jobs for the locals shrink, taking farms from white farmers and giving them to people from other regions all in the name of unity. I am not talking tribalism but I think it’s time Matabeleland takes up the agenda of secession serious,” said Mylo.

There are growing choruses the pact needs to be revisited after Mugabe abolished the post of Zanu PF national chairman, a position which has been the preserve of cadres of former PF Zapu.