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Zimbabwe to compensate victims of Gukurahundi

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President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government plans to compensate victims of the Gukurahundi genocide which claimed about 20,000 lives in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the mid-1980s.

Virginia Mabiza, the permanent secretary in the justice ministry, on Wednesday said that the compensation would take various forms.

Among these would be the exhumation and reburial of victims, the provision of counselling and medical services and the issuance of national identity documents to displaced survivors.

It is not immediately clear if there would be any financial compensation for survivors and their families.

“The ministry of home affairs and cultural heritage will facilitate the issuance of birth certificates and death certificates for victims affected by Gukurahundi. It will also facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims.

“We’re also implementing protection mechanisms for those affected by Gukurahundi to be free to discuss their experiences,” Mabiza was quoted in the state-owned Herald newspaper.

The term Gukurahundi is derived from the Shona language and is loosely translated to mean the “early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”.

Under the watch of former president Robert Mugabe, his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade led the brutal crackdown against civilians, mostly Ndebele speaking, in the southern part of the country under the pretext of looking for “dissidents”.

Until his fall in November 2017 from a military coup, Mugabe never apologised for the genocide which he described “a moment of madness”.

Mnangagwa was state security minister at the time. His rule has come under criticism for the failure to acknowledge the genocide and the various roles played by different people in the execution of Gukurahundi, with some of them currently serving in his government.

Perence Shiri, now the agriculture minister, was the commander of the Fifth Brigade during Gukurahundi.

Last month, Mnangagwa held a meeting with the Matabeleland Collective, an advocacy organisation that seeks to promote the development of the Matabeleland region.

Mnangagwa said the meeting was meant to show that his administration was not paying lip service to the demand for the development of the Matabeleland provinces.

Dumisani Nkomo, the head of the secretariat in the Matabeleland Collective, told TimesLIVE in an interview on Wednesday that when it came to the Gukurahundi, his organisation had both short-term and long-term views on the matter.

“The issues of access to birth and death certificates as well as the exhumation are the first steps in addressing the issue. There are other critical steps such as acknowledgement, but it’s a good start to hold the government to account according to the implementation matrix which they have provided,” Nkomo said.

But lobbyists on Gukurahundi said the “lack of acknowledgement” of the genocide was a missing factor in the plans by Mnangagwa’s government and it should have started from there.

“Why is the permanent secretary announcing these plans on Gukurahundi? It must be a minister and there is a need to gazette the plans to make it legally binding.

“The compensation plans are also suspicious and happen at a time that finance minister Mthuli Ncube plans to compensate white farmers too. It looks like a box-ticking exercise by the government which must meet some conditions in order for the US sanctions to be lifted,” a lobbyist said.

Last weekend, vice-president Constantino Chiwenga attended the 25th commemorations of the Rwanda genocide in Kigali. Calls have increased from civic society groups that Harare should learn from Kigali how it has dealt with its genocide that claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people in 1994.TimesLive

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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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

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NEWS

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

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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

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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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

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