Let bygones be bygones: Mpofu…argues that Gukurahundi was dealt with by 1987 Unity Accord

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IN VIEWS that are set to be a major talking point in the coming days and weeks, former Cabinet minister Obert
Mpofu,  says it is time to forgive and move on from the Gukurahundi killings of the 1980s, the Daily News reports.
In addition, the powerful ruling party secretary for administration — who hails from Matabeleland — has
also criticised some civil society organisations for continuing to push the government over the atrocities, arguing that their victims understood that these had been resolved by the signing of the Unity Accord between Zanu PF
and Zapu in 1987.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration have recently stepped up their efforts to try
and bring closure to one of the saddest chapters of independent Zimbabwe — which saw an estimated 20 000 people being killed by security forces in the western and central regions of the country.

Apart from facilitating the re-burying of victims, the government has also committed itself to providing birth and death certificates to the children and relatives of the affected people who — for decades now — have been facing
insurmountable hurdles at the Registrar-General’s offices.

Speaking in Harare on Wednesday evening, at the launch of his book On the Shoulders of Struggle, Mpofu said the signing of the Unity Accord by the late former president Robert Mugabe and revered Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo had effectively dealt with the Gukurahundi issue.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

He added that Zimbabweans should now let “bygones be bygones” and the government must never apologise for what happened.

“If you look at all those constituencies in Matabeleland that strongly support Zanu PF, they are constituencies that were affected by those (Gukurahundi) disturbances.

“Not that they supported the disturbances, but they know the old man Joshua Nkomo and the old man Mugabe sat down and addressed the issue. “The critics have not read the Unity Accord. The preamble talks about unity, peace and progress.

“Sometimes you wonder what is going on, just because they want to please the external detractors. Let’s not continue to divide our people,” Mpofu said.

“I made mention of the Gukurahundi where people have decided to be spokespersons of that sad development.
“I have been in government for almost 26 years and I have been a Member of Parliament for almost 23 years and my constituency is one of the constituencies that were affected by those disturbances.

“I know the people. I live with them. But you have got people in town, people in Harare, Bulawayo, who have never been to a rural area trying to convince me that they know Gukurahundi better than me.

“Please learn if you are ignorant,” Mpofu added in remarks which are likely to stir much debate in the country.
In his book, Mpofu said that the Gukurahundi massacres were being used by the country’s detractors to tarnish the government and Zanu PF images.

Robert Mugabe
Former Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe

“It may be noted that although Gukurahundi occurred, the timing of this conversation points towards a deliberate attempt to: discredit the legitimacy of the government, question its sincerity towards inclusive development,
criminalise the government, seek International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution of government officials, and finally, give opposition parties an opportunity to retain relevance in Zimbabwe’s political arena by manipulating
this narrative.

“Opposition politicians and their proxies have used the issue of Gukurahundi as a smear campaign against Zanu PF.
“The sincerity of some of these discussions is questionable considering the CSOs (civil society organisations) sponsored polarisation of our politics in Zimbabwe,” the former Umguza legislator writes in his book.

“The same western countries which were mute when this gross human rights abuse occurred are the ones funding CSO advocacy on Gukurahundi.

“This reveals the ulterior motive behind the sensational construction of this matter even beyond the unity accord,”Mpofu further says.

He also said the discussion on Gukurahundi should focus on identifying the victims and help them to access basic social services such as identification documents where needed.

“Like any other disaster, a crisis of this sort is bound to create victims who have lost economic and social livelihoods. “Some of these things can never be fully restored; instead, the government can recognise these people as victims and try to establish centres where they can be assisted

“Finally, let bygones be bygones. Government should not be coerced into making reactionary subjective ‘apologies’ for Gukurahundi by forces pursuing a neo-colonial polarising agenda.

“The Unity Accord formalised the needed reconciliation process as it brought the key stakeholder political entities to map the path out of conflict towards durable national healing,” Mpofu further writes in his book.

This comes as forthright former War Veterans’ minister, Tshinga Dube, last year re-ignited debate on the highly-emotive killings after he said the sad chapter was not closed.

Writing in his book Quiet Flows the Zambezi — which was launched recently — Dube said while Mnangagwa had commendably instructed his government to deal with the emotive saga, officials had done very little practically in that regard.

“Gukurahundi, in my view, should be seen as callous, senseless and greedy … a campaign engaged in to eliminate one
group which is perceived as black colonists.

“Sadly, there are a few people who probably were not affected by Gukurahundi and who think it
is a closed chapter. “What was closed was the killing. The legacy and memory continue to endure and recreated with intensifying vigour,” Dube — a strong supporter of Mnangagwa — said in his book.

“Our president (Mnangagwa) has appointed various government members to the Organ of National Healing and Reconciliation. But none have achieved even five percent of success.

“This is because of them thinking of their own jobs more than the fate of the affected people. “But those who have been assigned to take necessary steps to carry out the healing process have produced no results.

“To pretend Gukurahundi is over following the Unity Accord is to bury the head in the hot sand when the rest of the body is tormented by howling and desiccating Harmattan winds,” Dube continued.

The retired army colonel and serving Zanu PF politburo member also said many people from Matabeleland had fled to neighbouring countries during the post-independence disturbances — something, which he observed,
was continuing to this day.

An estimated 20 000 people are said to have been killed mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands when the government deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to the two regions — to fight an insurrection there.
Unity Day was subsequently set up to commemorate the Unity

Accord which was later signed between Zapu and Zanu PF on December 22, 1987, and which ended hostilities between the two parties.

However, the Gukurahundi saga has remained a topical and emotive issue especially in Matabeleland — despite the consummation of the 1987 unity deal.

This comes as Mnangagwa and the government okayed the exhumation and reburial of thousands of people killed during the Gukurahundi massacres.

The process of exhuming the bodies saw the first ceremony being held at Sipepa village in Tsholotsho — where villagers witnessed the interring of Justin Tshuma and his wife Thembi’s remains

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