By Prince Tongogara
It has for long been lurking in the minds of many that the emotive and divisive Gukurahundi would play a pivotal role in President Robert Mugabe’s succession.
The unresolved state sanctioned atrocities that killed over 20 000 unarmed civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces soon after independence in 1980 was going to be the compass in any future leadership succession battles.
Mugabe through a series of party and national constitution amendments in the last three years legally closed any reopening of the Gukurahundi issues but remains wary of being brought before international justice system on charges of genocide.
Mugabe’s fears were finally exposed Wednesday when he appointed long term loyalists, Gukurahundi player and denialist Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko respectively, party and state vice presidents.
Gukurahundi was a well-coordinated state military operation to decimate opposition Zapu strongholds and create a one party state. A secretly trained Fifth Brigade and only accountable to prime-minister Mugabe then was deployed into Midlands and Matabeleland under the guise of fighting dissidents in the region.
The extent of the damage to the region is well-captured in the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) book – Breaking the Silence – which even to date is not widely circulated. Zapu was forced into a merger with Zanu PF under the 1987 Unity Accord. The latest appointments officially confirm that ex-Zapu shall be in second place as second vice president.
Humiliated Zapu president Joshua Nkomo and broken leaders like Dumiso Dabengwa were coerced to sign the agreement that made them junior partners with no right to contest the united Zanu PF presidency then and in future.
Mugabe strengthened his hand by signing a general amnesty to prosecution to all persons accused of atrocities during the dark period of Gukurahundi. The President has never apologised about the atrocity except once where he said it was a ‘moment of madness’.
Mugabe and Zanu PF during the constitution review process strenuously fought to make sure that the newly created Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission had no legal right to investigate any atrocities committed by the state before February 13, 2009.
Despite enjoying a majority in parliament the opposition MDC formations acquiesced to the Zanu PF demands.
Grace Mugabe entrance onto the political scene in August this year meant that the issue of personal security and immune to prosecution for state atrocities was once again brought to the fore in succession politics.
She told the country that Joice Mujuru could not succeed Mugabe allegedly for being heard planning to publicly humiliate and lynch her when he husband was out of power or dead.
With visions of publicly humiliated and disgraced African dictators like Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, Libyan Muammar Gaddafi and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbargbo still fresh, Mugabe was forced to look for strong men to succeed him.
Mnangagwa and low profile Mphoko fit the bill of gatekeepers. Mnangagwa since his rise in 1977 to become Mugabe’s personal assistant has always been close to his mentor despite the foiled 2004 in-house putsch – Tsholotsho Declaration. The two are also wielded together by their Gukurahundi roles. Fifth Brigade was answerable to Mugabe alone while Mnangagwa was the State Security minister then.
Mphoko on the other hand is a career diplomat who has always stood by Mugabe even when the truth stared before him. He once denied the Gukurahundi atrocities claiming they were creations of western governments when he was ambassador to Botswana. Since then he has received some plum and political powerful appointments to among other countries Russia and South Africa. So he too is expected to harm a non provocative tune in the presidium trio.
It can therefore be safely argued that the duo’s appointment was done to protect Mugabe’s personal interests and safety rather than national interest. None of the successor has a clear and coherent social and economic policy for Zimbabwe. They have not had the temerity to have their policies publicly debated and Zimbabwe has the misfortune of Mugabe succeeding Mugabe – personal interests still running supreme despite socialist public posturing.