PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has finally admitted to government transgressions in the killing of innocent civilians in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces between 1980 and 1987 but denies the widely stated figure of 20,000 deaths.
He was speaking in a wide ranging, televised interview in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.
“I was minister for national security, that is national intelligence; that is correct. We are not saying the past must be thrown away from history. It has happened…,” he said when asked to acknowledge the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Asked how he felt as President of a government that is responsible for the killing of 20,000 civilians, Mnangagwa denied the figure was correct.
“I understand that those are the figures that are being flighted but, on the ground, I don’t think that is the correct figure,” Mnangagwa said without giving his own statistics.
The 20,000 figure comes from a 1997 report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace on the disturbances that saw the deployment of the notorious 5 Brigade in the affected provinces.
No other figure has been proffered as an alternative estimate for the killings.
The government has since allowed other commissions to look into what happened during the disturbances but has refused to release the results.
Bulawayo pressure group Ibhetshu Likazulu has sued former President Robert Mugabe, incumbent Mnangagwa, Vice President Kembo Mohadi and British Premier Theresa May demanding release of the findings of the Chihambakwe Commission of Inquiry on the Gukurahundi massacres.
In his comments, Mnangagwa insisted it was not important anymore to keep focusing on the past adding, “the most important thing is that what has happened, has happened”.
It was the first time Mnangagwa has spoken openly about a period in which his name is closely linked to.
The killings were triggered by an ostensible government bid to track down armed army dissenters who were viewed sympathetic to then Zapu leader and Mugabe nemesis Joshua Nkomo.
Civilians suffered collateral damage as they were accused of harbouring dissidents.
– New Zimbabwe