Zimbabweans have savaged Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko for his latest controversial comments regarding the Gukurahundi massacres of innocent civilians, mostly in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the early 1980s.
In an interview published by lickspittle State media on Sunday, Mphoko appeared to exonerate both President Robert Mugabe and his government from the massacres in which an estimated 20 000 civilians were killed by the feared and North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade.
But leading political figures who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday criticised Mphoko (pictured), saying that he was not just “singing for his supper” but also that he was insulting the victims and surviving relatives of the killings.
In his interview with State media, Mphoko re-stated his long-standing position that the Gukurahundi massacres were a conspiracy of the West — in the process re-igniting the debate around contested claims that he allegedly played a role in the killings as a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
An emotional Zapu spokesperson, Mjobise Noko, said yesterday the vice president was speaking like “a deranged man”.
“He is singing for his supper. Mugabe and (Emmerson) Mnangagwa presided over Gukurahundi and everyone knows that. Mphoko was also part of the system and we know it.
“Mphoko should be reminded that Gukurahundi is a serious genocide because we are talking about the loss of many thousands of lives. His statements therefore are a shame and in bad taste. If it was a joke, it’s a joke that is not funny,” Noko said.
The Zapu spokesperson said further that instead of trying to sweep Gukurahundi under the carpet, Zanu PF should set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similar to the one the South Africans used to deal with apartheid atrocities.
“To us Mphoko has lost his marbles and no one will take him serious.
As Zapu, what we want is for the perpetrators to meet the victims and they engage each other.
“We want real reconciliation because this issue will never die or be swept under the carpet. We want a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be set up to look into Gukurahundi. Anything other than that is an exercise in futility,” Noko said.
Deputy spokesperson of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, Sibongile Mgijima, accused Mphoko of opening Gukurahundi wounds that, she said, were “slowly healing”.
“Mphoko is opening wounds that had started drying up. Mugabe was the commander in chief of the defence forces when this happened. These Zanu PF people must admit their crime and say sorry.
“Indirectly, Mugabe admitted having had a hand in this when he said it was a time of madness. To add a little more, where does the West come in on these massacres? Even before independence, Zanu PF terrorised people in parts of Masvingo, Midlands and the whole of Matabeleland into voting them into power,” the angry Mgijima said. Mqondisi Moyo, president of a party that has been vocal on Gukurahundi, Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), accused Mphoko of failing the people of Matabeleland.
“Mphoko is a liar, a hypocrite and a shame to the people of Matabeleland. As his name says, he is clearly accompanying others in Zanu PF and singing for his supper.
“He has betrayed people from Matabeleland. He might go on his tours of Matabeleland but he has shown us that he is not one of us,” Moyo said.
The MRP president added that Mphoko should, in a quest to understand the matter properly, question why the Unity Accord was signed and why he had recently been appointed a vice president.
“The truth of the matter is that Gukurahundi was genocide where a brother killed another brother. It’s a lie that it was meant to deal with Zanu leadership. It was a project to wipe out all Ndebele speaking people. But people like Mphoko want to lie and tell us otherwise. People should ask him how he got that post. What led to the Unity Accord to be signed? Mphoko has betrayed people from Matabeleland,” Moyo added.
Spokesperson for pressure group, Ibhetshu Likazulu, Mbuso Fuzwayo, also did not have kind words for Mphoko.
“After following his assertion, it has become clear that he is saying half truths, which is black propaganda. He is shoving the blame for a genocide committed by Zanu PF government to the USA.
“The fact of the matter may be that the West was involved in planning and possibly funding it, but what Mphoko is not saying is that Zanu PF implemented the conspiracy,” he said.
Obert Gutu, MDC spokesperson, said Mphoko should resign for his remarks which he said in effect served to mock Gukurahundi survivors.
“The long and short of it is that the Gukurahundi genocide was a crime against humanity and that no amount of spin by the likes of Mphoko can wash away this very sad chapter of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.
“That said, as a concerned Zimbabwean patriot, I hereby call for the immediate resignation of Phelekezela Mphoko as one of the two vice presidents of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
“Gukurahundi was perpetrated by the Zanu PF regime on innocent, unarmed and defenceless people mainly of Ndebele origin in the Midlands and the Matabeleland provinces.
“The fifth Brigade was specifically deployed in these provinces where they unleashed senseless and brutal violence on unarmed villagers. Pregnant women were bayoneted and thrown into open graves.
“People suspected of harbouring so-called dissidents were killed in cold blood and many victims were simply thrown into open graves and buried alive,” Gutu said.
Mphoko, in the weekend interview, said Mugabe and the government had nothing to do with the massacres which rights groups say claimed about 20 000 civilian lives.
Mugabe was prime minister when the government deployed the army in southern Zimbabwe to crush “dissidents” that the government then said were linked to Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu.
“Gukurahundi after the war had nothing to do with Mugabe — nothing! That is a fact,” Mphoko told the Sunday Mail.
“I have always said the post-independence Gukurahundi was a conspiracy of the West. This I maintain …People can say what they want, but that was a Western conspiracy,” he added.