Sibangilizwe Nkomo, leader of the ZAPU party, has criticised Chief Fortune Charumbira, the deputy president of the National Chiefs Council, for publicly denying that the atrocities during Gukurahundi were not acts of genocide.
According to Nkomo, Chief Charumbira’s ‘denialist’ remarks indicate a deliberate attempt to conceal the Gukurahundi atrocities by trivialising and downplaying their severity.
Last week, Chief Charumbira told media editors at a Gukurahundi sensitisation workshop in Bulawayo that the killing of civilians in Matebeleland and Midlands, which occurred in the 1980s after independence, having been authorised by the government – should not be classified as a genocide.
Charumbira denied the killings amounted to genocide, warning the media not to classify it as such until the hearings are completed.
“It’s not genocide and it should not be classified as such until the whole processes are concluded,” Charumbira said while responding to questions from ahead of the much-anticipated rollout of hearings to be spearheaded by traditional chiefs within communities.
The ZAPU leader said Chief Charumbira’s “utterances of despicable proportions” cannot be ignored because doing so would betray victims who the government “callously murdered, raped, tortured, maimed, and made to disappear.”
Nkomo also claimed the chief was “now trying to absolve and protect” the government.
“Does Chief Fortune Charumbira even understand the definition of a genocide? The simplest and basic non-technical and non-legalistic definition as found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, ‘It is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group,'” he stated.
The ZAPU leader said it was proved and confirmed over the years that Gukurahundi was designed to kill and eliminate the Ndebele people, whose preferred political party was ZAPU and its former military branch ZPRA.
“For Chief Charumbira to further claim that the incident happened when the soldiers were in pursuit of dissidents, with a few women and children killed as collateral damage, is not only a misrepresentation of facts but also nauseatingly disingenuous and disrespectful,” Nkomo said.
“History does not lie and sooner or later it embarrasses those who survive by lying.”
Nkomo claimed there has been a concerted effort to trivialise and downplay the gravity and depth of Gukurahundi from 1987 when then president, the late, Robert Mugabe asserted that it “was a moment of madness.”
The cover-up is now demonstrated by what Nkomo described as the “brazen machinations of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s chief’s nefariously unethical fact-finding and reconciliation programme.”
“The objective being to cover up for the heinous atrocities, trivialise the programme and reduce to a minimum the numbers of people reportedly massacred,” said the ZAPU leader.
Nkomo claimed to buy time and with the hope of evading justice, “the perpetrator keeps changing goal posts.”
He cited that first, the government had concealed the Chihambakwe report, other findings by independent media and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Zimbabwe. Secondly, Nkomo said the government had appointed an ineffective National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and now there was a “spurious Mnangagwa-controlled chiefs ‘Reconciliation’ charade.”
“The cat has been out of the bag since the unofficial lifting of the lid on the Chihambakwe report, several other pieces of evidence are now readily available in the public domain, needless to mention the victims, the affected, and the eye-witnesses who are demanding to meet the perpetrator face to face,” said the ZAPU leader.
“All this is evidence pointing to the fact that indeed there was genocide in Matebeleland and Midlands in the early to mid-eighties. Chief Charumbira cannot singlehandedly sweep the genocide into the mass graves.”
Nkomo wondered if Chief Charumbira and other chiefs “sleep soundly in their beds at night, knowing that there are thousands of souls crying in the wilderness; knowing full well that they are being used by the perpetrator of genocide, recurrent oppression and violence, to further his own interests and postpone justice for as long as possible.”
The ZAPU leader bemoaned that after reading Chief Charumbira’s denialist statement, he could not sleep in “disbelief.”
“We urge the chiefs to reconsider their forced involvement and participation in this diabolical programme. Chiefs as custodians of our cultural values, guardians of our very lives and livelihoods, must not be involved in a process that is clearly against their subjects,” Nkomo pleaded.
“Otherwise, history will judge them as harshly as Judas Iscariot!”