By Sij Ncube
Harare, June 11, 2016 – WAR veterans should be wary of President Robert Mugabe’s threat to unleash terror on them, analysts warn, saying the Zanu PF leader intends legitimising his authoritarianism by revoking the Gukurahundi ghost to crash internal opposition.
Addressing the Zanu PF central committee on Thursday, Mugabe expressed his displeasure at the former freedom fighters’ perceived political machinations to cherry-picking vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa as his preferred successor in the party.
In a chilling and unapologetic tone, Mugabe reminded the war veterans that their association was formed to cater for the welfare of war veterans and not to champion politics.
“Dissidents tried it and you know what happened. Those dissidents were war veterans too,” said Mugabe in reference to his early 1980s earth-scotched strategy of sending government soldiers to terrorise civilians in Matabeleland and some parts of the Midlands provinces ostensibly in search of dissidents.
The military adventure left more than 20 000 innocent Ndebele-speaking civilians dead and thousand others displaced, in an episode which ranks as one of the darkest periods of Zimbabwe’s post-independent era as Mugabe sought to annihilate his opponent, the late vice president Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe in 1999 described the era as “a moment of madeness”.
Mugabe berated the war veterans, telling them it was not their business to cherry-pick leaders for Zanu PF.
“No war veterans, that is not your function, it’s not your business to choose who should succeed and who should not, worse doing so under the pretext that there would be bloodshed if our preferred person doesn’t succeed, you want to shed blood? That is dissident behaviour and we will not allow it. Steps are going to be taken,” he said.
But analysts on Friday were unanimous Mugabe was unapologetic about his Gukurahundi military adventure and had no qualms in replicating it nearly 30 years later to deal with dissent within Zanu PF.
They said it also finally confirmed Mugabe being the Gukurahundi massacres architect; exposing second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko’s ‘ridiculous lies” it was the West which orchestrated the killings in southern Zimbabwe in the early 1980s.
Edmore Tshuma, an expert in transitional justice, said while Mugabe’s Gukurahundi threat on war veterans is regrettable and added salt to injury, it should be taken seriously.
“Mr Mugabe has previously proved to be a very dangerous African despot. His ruthless machinery has on many occasions inflicted pain and suffering on a massive scale on his own people,” said Tshuma, who holds a doctorate in social policy and transitional justice.
“War veterans, who happen to have been the ones who propelled him to his position of absolute power, should take Mugabe’s threats seriously. What is unfortunate though is that he boastfully uses the darkest page of Zimbabwe’s history to threaten those who disagree with him.
“He is the one who painted this page dark. The period he is referring to left an intergenerational trauma which may take over 500 years to heal. History has taught us that sins of vicious dictators are always revisited even long after they are gone, suggesting his family and those linked to his hegemony maybe left with a burden to explain their consciousness over a system which advantaged them while causing a lot of pain to the majority Zimbabweans.”
Constitutional lawyer, Alex Magaisa, said Mugabe’s second Gukurahundi threat is not just directed at “dissident” war vets only.
“As everyone now knows, bar those with selective memory, the first Gukurahundi was unleashed against so-called dissidents but was in fact a brutal campaign against civilians in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions. Now Mugabe threatens to use the same method against war vets but it will actually be against everyone who opposes his rule,” he said.
“These are not words of a man who feels any remorse for the Gukurahundi atrocities but one who feels what he did was completely justified. Let’s see how the usual characters will spin this one. Some things never change.”