ZAPU Leader Dumiso Dabengwa during the Gukurahundi conference in Bulawayo on Friday night.
ZAPU Leader Dumiso Dabengwa during the Gukurahundi conference in Bulawayo on Friday night.
Picture: Pamenus Tuso/ CAJ News Africa
Picture: Pamenus Tuso/ CAJ News Africa
A former Zimbabwe cabinet minister and liberation war intelligence supremo, Dumiso Dabengwa has made startling claims regarding the Gukurawindi massacres in Zimbabwe in the 1980s, maintaining that atrocities that left thousands dead were planned well before independence, with the involvement of colonial master, Britain.

DD as he is affectionately known in Zimbabwe’s political circles made the claims when he was speaking at the Southern African Political Economy Series (SAPES) organised event in Bulawayo.

Dabengwa, an opposition leader of the revived Zimbabwe African

People’s Union (ZAPU), who claims to have been pressured into join the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in order to curb further bloodshed, alleged that the atrocities, known as Gukurahundi (loosely translated to early rain that washes away chuff before the spring rains) were planned long before the 1979 Lancaster House talks that ushered in independence a year later.

Dabengwa, one of senior ZAPU leaders jailed during the atrocities that claimed the lives of an estimated 20 000 civilians in the party’s strongholds of Matabeleland and Midlands Provinces, said this was planned meticulously when it became apparent that ZAPU would emerge victorious in the elections.

Britain is said to have preferred former President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU ahead of the late nationalist Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU.

“Gukurahundi was planned very meticulously and I think it was planned as early as the Lancaster talks when it became clear that the British would prefer ZANU to be victors in the 1980 elections,” claimed Dabengwa

Continued Dabengwa: “It was then that they planned to make sure that ZAPU and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army ‘ZIPRA) the military wing of ZAPU was the enemy,” said the tough talking Dabengwa.

Dabengwa claimed a senior former British major made the confession in the presence of Mugabe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the late Solomon Mujuru (the country’s first army General) and Lookout Masuku (ZIPRA commander) and General Peter Walls, the head of the armed Forces of Rhodesia.

Dabengwa did not provide details of dates, venue of context regarding the confession by a British Major.

“One of the majors in the intelligence services had called us for a security briefing on a Friday on what potential threats Zimbabwe would possibly face, “ Dabengwa said whilst addressing a SAPES gathering.

“After analysing the political situation in neighbouring countries such as South African, Botswana, and Namibia the major said the only threat is Zapu and ZIPRA. I am saying this for the first time,” he said.

While Britain’s alleged role in the massacres has always been a matter of speculation, it is the first time a high flying official has confirmed it.

At the height of the atrocities, in 1984, Edinburgh University awarded Mugabe an honorary degree for “services to education in Africa.” In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II conferred Mugabe a knighthood. The honours were revoked in 2007 and 2008 for alleged human rights violation by Mugabe following seizures of white owned farms in the country.

Dabengwa, the former Home Affairs Minister was arrested in 1982 alongside Masuku on treason charges. They were acquitted in 1983 but remained behind bars until their release in 1987 ahead of the unity deal between the two rival parties which culminated in the formation of ZANU- Patriotic Front (PF).

Dabengwa, who served as Minister of Home Affairs Minister between 1992 and 2000, applauded Mnangagwa for signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill, but urged his government acknowledge the atrocities and apologise to the victims.

Government has been tight lipped, with Mugabe describing them as “a moment of madness” at the burial of Nkomo in 1999.

The issue remains one of the major tests to Mnangagwa’s presidency after the army disposed Mugabe in November last year.

Activists have recently set up an online petition to force him to establish a truth and justice commission to bring closure to the Gukurahundi killings as pressure mounts on the government to deal with the matter.

Some youths were also arrested over Mnangagwa’s alleged involvement during the Gukurahundi.

Mnangagwa’s visit to South Africa in December was also met with some protests. He has been quoted as denying his involvement, blaming the allegations on political opponents.

“Gukurahundi was genocide. We will not stop speaking until an apology has been made. It was genocide and that is the premise we must begin to trace the issue. There is still some obstacles to deal with peace and reconciliation in this country,” Dabengwa said.

The issue is the most emotive in Zimbabwean politics and the main cause of inherent tribalism in the country.

The atrocities were carried out in the largely-Ndebele and Kalanga minorities in a country where the Shona tribe is 80 percent of the 16-million population.

Religious leader, Pastor Ray Mosti, echoed Dabengwa’s sentiments when he stressed the need for national dialogue on the mass killings.

“For dialogue to succeed, all stakeholders need to buy into it. Shared national values are necessary in bringing the Gukurahundi to finality.

Government should repeal laws that hinder people from speaking about this issue,” Motsi said.

Sipho Malunga, the former Senior Defence Attorney in the Tribunal for the prosecution of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in East Timor, raised concern at the suppression of critics of Gukurahundi.

“The voices of the Gukurahundi victims are not coming out. There are many reasons why the victims have not been given the opportunity to speak. The victims were never asked how they feel.

“The very perpetrators who committed these crimes remains in power and authority .They have retained control of the territory, the security and movement of the victims. So in what contest can a victim speak?” asked Malunga.

Professor Martin Rupiya, an academic, urged the government to emulate Togo and Ethiopia, which he praised for handling similar conflicts well.

- CAJ News