AS you already know, the just passed cold month of June is when Africa and the world remembered those brave young people who were murdered in Soweto in 1976 by a despicable unit of military misfits under the command of an oppressive South African government.
I would also like to kindly bring to your attention a similar situation that prevailed in Zimbabwe in the 1980s when a despicable unit of military misfits operating under the name Gukurahundi, under the command of a one-party government you controlled murdered more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Your politburo and both elements of MDC’s national executive committees have just met to seek reconciliation, but you are yet to explain and ask Zimbabweans to forgive you for the transgressions of the renegade Fifth Brigade that was under your command.
South African Mail & Guardian blogger Israel Rafalovich, a journalist and analyst based at The Hague, The Netherlands, says of such a situation: “Forgiveness has a spiritual component and involves acknowledgment, contrition and forgiveness. It cannot be imposed and depends on our acknowledgment of the power and depth of God’s love.”
He continues: “Forgiveness is an important factor if we want to achieve a lasting peace. Otherwise, we will hear only the voices of scepticism. The readiness to forgive will create possibilities for truth-telling and the courage to take political responsibility.”
I am one of those voices of Zimbabwean scepticism at home and abroad who strongly believe that you, Perence Shiri, Constantine Chiwenga, Emmerson Mnangagwa and, Enos Nkala, owe Zimbabweans an urgent, overdue apology. Is this asking for too much? Why is it that Gibson Sibanda and John Nkomo – both of Ndebele origin, victims for that matter – can be given an unenviable task to wring out contrition from citizens when those who were responsible for sowing the seed of hatred have not acknowledged their transgression? Why is it that 25 years on, Mr Mugabe, you have yet to convene a press conference or appear on television explaining the punishable acts of Gukurahundi? Or perhaps I should venture to put words into your mouth for such public disclosure:
“People of Zimbabwe, children of Matabeleland, as president of this inclusive government, I am aware that efforts are underway to fulfil obligations impressed upon us by the 15 September 2008 agreement. One such obligation is for the people of this country to seek reconciliation and lasting peace for our divided nation. In pursuit of this noble cause, I would like to concur with those that point out the need to acknowledge events in history as a basis for sustainable future relationships. In the 1980s, those of us in power then strongly felt that our legitimacy was under threat from unruly and remnant elements of our partners in the struggle for independence. We therefore sought to utilise the authority bestowed upon us by the constitution to subdue these undesirable elements.
“But as you may agree, even in our own families, brothers and sisters argue and fight, at times resulting in tragic loss of precious lives. When commonsense once more prevails, family members unite in search of peace, like we are doing now. In retrospect, we could have sought advice and wisdom from friends to settle our disputes, but opted for hard-headedness, resulting in needless loss of precious lives. We in Zimbabwe have now entered a new era of brotherhood, never mind the other forgettable events of the last decade. The deployment of the Fifth Brigade was inspired by a desire to protect what was ours, but perhaps those of us in charge threw caution to the wind and lost control. Even if those few troublesome elements were vanquished, the innocent thousands needlessly perished. Some were accounted for, others not. Those who were at the epicentre of conflict have sour memories, generations still afflicted with pain and anguish.
“So even if the late Joshua Nkomo and I agreed to cooperate in December 1987, there are still those who feel more needs to be done. It is for this reason that today I present myself to the world, Africa, Zimbabwe and particularly the citizens of Matabeleland and the Midlands as one who truly regrets those fateful events of the 1980s. My colleagues in Zanu PF, particularly Perence Shiri, Constantine Chiwenga, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, share with me this agony of truth. Our commitment is now to take full responsibility so that survivors and the affected are accorded due recognition, compensation and lasting respect. I thank you.”
To conclude my proposition, Mr Mugabe, I have to admit that it is generally difficult, especially for African leaders, to show remorse when they strongly feel their action is supported by national constitutions. However, I should be quick to add that matters of forgiveness are driven by good moral judgement in pursuit of enhanced social relationships. Such an attitude demands humility, sophistication, wisdom and commonsense. The intelligent Jewish prophet called Jesus of Nazareth, labelled forgiveness as an entity that can be quantified. Whether or not you are endowed with these rare characteristics I will leave judgement to the victims of Gukurahundi.
In the meantime, it is critical to save the credibility of the Organ for National Healing, which is grappling with the dichotomy of peace in the face of vengeance, forgiveness where confession does not exist and forgetfulness where nightmares poison our dreams. My take, Mr Mugabe, is that only one man can redeem this unsavoury situation with a few words. You are that man.