PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last Thursday invoked memories of the 1980s massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland executed by the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade as he railed against war veterans for allegedly campaigning for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace him.
Mugabe told the former fighters he could use the same method that saw the army reportedly kill over 20 000 innocent civilians and committing other heinous crimes against supporters of late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu if the war veterans continued to meddle in Zanu PF affairs.
One of the prominent victims of that murderous military campaign is liberation struggle icon Dumiso Dabengwa, who has previously asked Mugabe to publicly apologise for Gukurahundi and compensate survivors. On Friday Dabengwa (DD) spoke to our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) about Mugabe’s latest utterances. Below are excerpts of the interview.
OM: What are your views on Mugabe’s statements which some people and human rights groups say are a threat to unleash a second Gukurahundi?
DD: In the first place, I have to say this is really a Zanu PF affair. However, the way I read it is that the issue concerns succession.
The war veterans came with their preferred person who should succeed Mugabe and I am sure they are entitled to their views.
I don’t see the comparison [on the use of force on war veterans] and why he would have come to labelling them dissidents.
If they have dissenting views to that of the mainstream Zanu PF, it’s their views and they are entitled to bring them on the line.
It’s wrong to say I am going to use force because of your views. He is not even ashamed that he is going to use force and the same thing that happened to Gukurahundi victims is going to happen to the war veterans.
OM: As a victim of Gukurahundi and probably coming from an area where many people were affected, what effect do you think Mugabe’s statements will have on those that witnessed the atrocities?
DD: He is already opening old wounds. People are expecting a healing process and yet the president of the country thinks otherwise.
He is talking of crushing people and that’s unfortunate. In doing so, he is opening old wounds.
People will expect that the president will make an apology, but instead of doing so, he is coming with a bombshell to say he will use his army to crush war veterans.
OM: So under the circumstances, do you think Mugabe is remorseful of the Gukurahundi massacres?
DD: It shows he is not repentant. After signing that thing [Unity Accord] with Dr [Joshua] Nkomo we thought nothing of that nature would ever happen again.
We expect him to respect the Constitution and the Peace and Reconciliation Commission he recently swore into office should take a lead to make sure there is no repeat of Gukurahundi.
The commission should focus on reconciliation because we don’t want anything of that sort to happen again.
OM: Do you think Mugabe will voluntarily step down?
DD: He has already told the nation that there is no vacancy, implying he is not leaving office. It means he will die in office and I think he has been very clear on that.
It is also possible that even when people reject him in the next elections, he will do a repeat of 2008 and continue as president.
The number of people who will die will not move him as long as he remains in office.
OM: In your view, what should war veterans do, seeing that Mugabe wants to keep the succession issue off limits for them?
DD: I don’t think the issue of succession is so sacrosanct that it should not be discussed. The matter should be discussed but at the end of the day, the party will make a decision.
What the war veterans were saying is a way of lobbying for their preferred candidate and I don’t think in a democratic society it should be a crime.
It should not be him [Mugabe] to make a decision on the successor but the party. He once said it before that the party should decide, so the war veterans have a right to lobby.
OM: The war veterans leadership has of late been making statements suggesting that ex-Zipra fighters should not have a say on Zanu PF succession matters. Do you think Zipra is being accorded the respect it deserves in independent Zimbabwe?
DD: Of course, it is not there in history books and people don’t want to highlight that but no genuine war veteran will downplay the role played by Zipra. We have never minimised the role they played and some of us who were commanders know this.
OM: Judging from his latest utterances, do you think Mugabe still has respect for war veterans?
DD: From what we are seeing, I think Mugabe will be saying the role of war veterans has expired.
They have been used and they are no longer required now, especially on elections since they will say they will rely on modern technology.
They have been used and now being told they have outlived their usefulness.