Connect with us

NEWS

Ghosts of past massacres haunt President Mnangagwa before election

Published

on

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to seal his position in a July 30 election is meant to mark a break with Robert Mugabe’s violence-tainted rule. But massacres that took place decades ago are coming back to haunt him. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a longtime Mugabe lieutenant who took over after a coup last year, narrowly avoided a grenade attack last month which wounded one of his vice presidents and a minister at a rally in Bulawayo.

He was quick to absolve the locals of any blame, pointing a finger at disgruntled Mugabe loyalists instead, but the location was significant: rights groups say army offensives in the area in the 1980s killed 20,000 people and memories remain raw.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in charge of national security at the time of the 1982-87 assault in Matabeleland, and analysts said the Bulawayo rally blast could have been calculated to implicate Mnangagwa’s Ndebele opponents and stir up trouble.

Asked whether Bulawayo people were responsible for the blast, Mnangagwa told state television: “The people of Bulawayo? No. They love me. (It’s) people outside Bulawayo.”

That helped ease worries of a security crackdown.

But voters in Bulawayo remain distrustful of their new leader, who is known by his nickname “Ngwena”, Shona for crocodile, an animal famed and feared in Zimbabwean lore for stealth and ruthlessness. Mnangagwa says he is soft as wool.

“It is good that Mnangagwa realises that people in Bulawayo are peaceful and will not use violence. I hope the government will not use this terrorist act as an excuse to target those who oppose this regime,” said Thamsanqa Dube, a 36-year-old resident of Emganwini suburb in Bulawayo.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, Shona name for ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, are a major reason Matabeleland’s voters have rejected Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party in national elections since 2000. Many of them want an apology.

With no reliable polls, it is not clear whether the area’s 861,701 votes, 15 per cent of the national total, will punish Mnangagwa any more than they did Mugabe in the past.

But in an election under international observation for the first time in years, he may need them more than Mugabe did.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s role during Gukurahundi is not clear; his critics say that at the time, his security ministry passed on intelligence used by soldiers to target victims; officials did not respond to requests for comment.

At two consecutive rallies in Gwanda town and Bulawayo on June 22 and 23, Mnangagwa did not mention the army crackdown. He instead cast himself as a reformer, promising to devolve more power and bring economic development to the region.

Although he is the front-runner in next month’s polls, he faces a substantial challenge from 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

An unofficial survey released in Bulawayo in early June by Mass Public Opinion Institute put Mnangagwa on 42 per cent and Chamisa on 31 per cent. Twenty-five per cent gave no preference.

That means President Emmerson Mnangagwa could do with the Matabeleland vote to get the 50-plus-one per cent required to win the first round.

In the previous election in 2013, Mugabe polled 25 per cent of the vote in Bulawayo and 40 per cent of the total Matabeleland vote. Political commentator and ZANU-PF critic Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa was unlikely to fare better than Mugabe.

Political analysts also say Mnangagwa lacks Mugabe’s charisma and may struggle to connect with voters, noting he lost to a little-known opposition candidate in parliamentary polls in 2000 and 2005.

Mnangagwa, desperate to end Zimbabwe’s isolation by Western powers, has invited foreign observers, absent since 2002, and is not seen relying on the intimidation tactics and violence employed by Mugabe in the past to win the election. The run-up to the polls has been largely peaceful so far.

George Charamba, Mnangagwa’s spokesman, said the promise of more power to provinces was no political gimmick and officials were working to produce a policy on how it would be shared.

“Expectations are that by the time elections are over, the national vision on decentralisation will be presented to the new government as a blueprint for the next five years,” he said.

Devolution was made mandatory in the constitution in 2013, but ZANU-PF governments have resisted its implementation, saying it was costly for the country.

Mnangagwa’s officials declined to comment on how he would deal with Gukurahundi and did not respond to a written request to interview him.

The president’s loyalists say he is a man of his word and point to his launch of a livestock programme that gave villagers thousands of cattle in the cattle ranching in Matabeleland South Province as a sign that he cares about their welfare.

Mnangagwa promised to re-open closed industries in Bulawayo and make it Zimbabwe’s industrial hub. A hospital shut in 2004 in Bulawayo would be opened within weeks with help from Indian investors, he said and he also commissioned the construction of a stalled $1.5 billion power plant in the western Hwange town, which he said would create 7,000 jobs.

Despite the promises, to some Mnangagwa remains defined by his role during Gukurahundi.

“Mnangagwa is the face of Gukurahundi, he can’t deny that. Mugabe was the body but Emmerson is the face,” said Mbuso Fuzwayo, secretary of a Bulawayo-based group that seeks to preserve sites where massacres occurred. The group is called Ibetshu Likazulu, Ndebele for “Last Hope”.

Mugabe has called Gukurahundi a “moment of madness”.

Asked about it at the Davos meeting of world leaders in January, Mnangagwa said: “What has happened has happened. What can we do about the past?
“Wherever wrong was committed, the government of the day must apologise. Wherever any community has suffered an injury if it is that injury that has to be repaired, we do it.”

Henry Khabo, 67, from rural Bubi, 70 km (44 miles) from Bulawayo, wants an apology and reparations.

He says he was rounded up by Fifth Brigade soldiers in Bubi and airlifted to Tsholotsho, 200 km (124 miles) away, where he was tortured for days and saw bodies being dumped in a huge pit.

On the final day, together with six other men, he was lined up naked for execution by firing squad. The last thing Khabo remembers is staring at the barrel of a gun and then waking up in a hospital three days later. He had been shot but survived.

“I cannot vote for him,” said Khabo, fighting tears and pointing to a scar on his left cheek where a bullet entered and exited below the ear.

Reuters

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × one =

BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

Published

on

Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

Continue Reading

NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

Published

on

Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

Continue Reading

HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

Published

on

Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

Continue Reading

Trending