Mzila is alleged to have called for the removal of Shona people staying in Johannesburg’s populous Hillbrow suburb where he was addressing a rally on the 12th of November 2011 at the launch of the Gukurahundi Genocide Victims Justice for All. The meeting was also attended by Bishop Paul Verryn, a central Methodist Church parishioner housing over three thousand victims of political violence since 2005; no doubt, the attendees were a mix of all Zimbabwean ethnic and tribal groups.
There is no doubt that Gukurahundi remains an unresolved matter and a “scar” in our national conscience as Zimbabweans. As much as we don’t seek to justify and or speak for those who planned and perpetrated this ethnic cleansing in our political history, we find Minister Mzila’s comments unfortunate and insightful, worst considering that he is leading the national healing and reconciliation Inclusive Government (IG) portfolio and is a leader in the fragile inclusive government, never mind the political relevance of his party.
Such a view smacks of irresponsible and dangerous politicking over highly sensitive and emotional national challenges. Any responsible public official who appreciates the gravity and sensitivity not only of Gukurahundi but the continuous deliberate massive huge and small (we treat all historical atrocities as equally criminal) political executions which are sadly a permanent feature of Zimbabwe’s political history since the 60s should know very well where such views are likely to take the nation. We neither need nor deserve any new conflict, especially given our current fragile and precarious political, social and economic status.
There was a lot of innocent blood that was shed in the 60s when Zanu and Zapu split. Key actors in our political parties disappeared inexplicably. This has continued into post-independence period with Zanu-PF combining both ethnicity and violence to buttress its hegemonic agenda. The consequences of such a brutal agenda have gone beyond physical elimination especially considering that peace and stability are pre-requisites for national development. Zimbabwe today, clearly exemplifies the notion that a nation in arms with its people can not develop.
It is a fact that ethnic Ndebeles by virtue of their political inclination and geographic location were deliberately targeted by Mugabe’s Gukurahundi machinery. It is also a fact that they were not the only sole ethnic victims of Gukurahundi. To give an example, we happen to come from Mwenezi district. As we write there are people who are living with physical scars of this dastardly act, not to mention the emotional ones, emanating simply from greed for political power. Go to villages in Maranda, Neshuro, Mawarire, and Chemvana (these villages are inhabited by the Shangaans, Vendas, Pfumbi, Ndebele and Shonas). There are survivors of the brutality of this era who had their lips, ears and noses brutally chopped off in cold blood by either side of the operatives in the conflict. The organized and state sponsored mutilation was ethnically indiscriminate.
Beyond this, we have to think of the immediate victimizers, it is very easy to think that the individual members who happened to be ordinary soldiers within the Korean trained coercive 5th brigade were bloody thirst vampires. We should look at the power configurations to understand that these individuals, mostly very young men who had come from the war of liberation were manipulated, emotionally and materially to turn against their fellow citizens as well as their brothers in arms who had fought arms akimbo with them in the armed struggle. Ultimately Gukurahundi is a national disaster, ultimately we are all victims. Our plotting political leaders in the context of Gukurahundi were Mugabe and his people engineering ethnic cleansing and turning a nation into killers and the killed.
We must not that forget Zipra and Zanla, Zapu and Zanu and so many other political parties including the ANC, Zanu- Ndonga and ordinary Zimbabweans in their ethnic and racial diversity sacrificed so much for their independence, nationhood and an independent and sovereign state. It is upon this premise that we should seek to foster unity and diversity otherwise we risk replicating Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s tribalism, racism, xenophobia, corruption and kleptocracy (all its evil characteristics).
Mzila’s perspective sounds a subtle desire to sustain an Ndebele hegemonic agenda consequently reading from the same book with those advocating for an Ndebele state now popularly known as Mthwakazi Liberation Front. This is exactly what Zanu-PF has done by constructing a historical narrative that erases the heroic sacrifices of all the other groups and actors of our population except the imperial Robert Mugabe and his party.
A closer look at Zanu-PF today will clearly show that it is a party tearing apart along ethnic cleavages, just check how the Mnangagwa-Karanga faction is on the neck of super-Zezuru faction-Mjuru/Sekeramayi. Meanwhile the Manyika within that party are plotting to secure their ascendency through Dydimas Mutasa and Patrick Chinamasa. No doubt the Ndebele faction as one group in Zanu-PF and within itself is confronted with an insipient struggle over who takes the reigns within its subservient position as rendered it from the Zanu-PF ethnic political framework. Reverse genocide exactly fits in this kind of thinking, it is just another side of the coin of Zanu-PF’s exclusive hegemonic politics.
We recognize that Zimbabwe is a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society. There are about fourteen ethnic groups in Zimbabwe among them the Karanga, Zezuru, Manyika (Shona), Shangaan, Ndebele, Kalanga, Tonga, Nambya, Venda, Xhosa, Doma. Should we inflame genocide to heal Gukurahundi? Should all these patriotic and nationalist Zimbabweans bear the responsibility of the cost of such an unnecessary and clearly futile bloody endeavor? Why should we continue to divide Zimbabweans by setting them against each other? Is there any wound or scar that justifies the burning of a whole nation? Do we need a Rwanda in Zimbabwe?, surely we can keep asking so many questions, given that those responsible for Gukurahundi almost repeated it, particularly the character of political murders in 2008.
In an article published in the Zimbabwe Mail in 2008 under the heading Mugabe should be brought to The Hague, we argued that those responsible for human rights violations, the massive killing, and mutilation of ordinary civilians for nothing other than political ends should face the international justice system. Our argument remains that Mr. Mugabe should take responsibility if he can not apologise to Zimbabweans to allow forgiveness, reparations and national healing under the terms laid down by Zimbabweans. Mr. Mugabe and key security elements in Zanu-PF particularly those who have come to be identified as the core hardliner group within JOC should be subjected to international law. Precedence has been set, for example, Rwanda (East Africa), Liberia (West Africa) and recently Libya in (North Africa).
The world has come of age. Those who use their military ware and ways to kill the people they should protect are as responsible as those who use or (ab)use their position of power and privilege to churn out their rhetoric and or hostile irresponsible propaganda to insight violence against other ethnicities and races. We plead with those in powerful positions to act in moderation whenever they open their mouths. It is our view that Zimbabwe cries for sober leadership and sober reflection particularly now when the country is in search of a new unifying leadership and vision. There is need for healing and reconciliation as well as recognition of the role of those who were deliberately deleted from our historical narratives by the hegemony as a way of pacifying and subjugating them. We are a richer, more robust democracy, more prosperous nation in our tolerant diversity.
Gideon Chitanga is a PhD Fellow ( Politics and International Studies) Rhodes University, Trust Matsilele is a Masters of Philosophy Journalism candidate, Stellenbosch University.