President Emmerson Mnangagwa has refused to apologise for the Gukurahundi massacres saying the measures he has put in place to deal with the emotive issue must be allowed to run their course.
Mnangagwa was taken to task during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, on how Zimbabwe was dealing with that part of history where about 20,000 people were killed in Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980s. The interviewer asked Mnangagwa, who was in charge of State security at the time, if he would apologise.
Despite repeating the question several times, the Zanu PF leader was adamant that he would not apologise for his perceived role in the atrocities.
“We are not saying the past must be thrown away from history, it has happened — it is there. Just a week ago, I signed a Bill — the National Healing and Reconciliation Bill — into an Act and have assigned one of my vice presidents to deal with that one so that the communities that were affected can air their grievances and challenges with recommendations from that commission we should be able to address those issues,” he said.
Mnangagwa said he would appear before the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission if the affected communities ask him to appear. He went further to dispute assertions that 20 000 were killed in the Midlands and Matabeleland region during that era.
“The most important thing is that what has happened has happened. What can we do about the past? We have put up a commission to deal with that issue; that should not stop us from having a better future where all the communities should be united, should cooperate, should love each other, should work together. This is the message which we have. We are more worried now about how in the future we should have a united Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.
The interviewer again asked Mnangagwa to apologise saying: “You could just apologise for what happened at that point and that would be a powerful signal that Zimbabwe is truly moving into an era that acknowledges the past properly?
Mnangagwa responded: “In my view, there is nothing more than me putting legislation where a commission headed by a vice president and the most eminent persons in Zimbabwe, to deal with that issue and make recommendations. At the time in 1987, my former president and the president of Zapu, the late VP Joshua Nkomo, came together and cobbled out a Unity Accord”
The interviewer then tried to push him again to say sorry as she said: “And I’m asking you because you have taken over from . . . Mugabe, what is it that stops you from saying the words, ‘I’m sorry for what happed in that time’ in a way that presidents, primes ministers have apologised for things that happed even many decades before they were in power as way of having a proper reckoning of the past.”
Mnangagwa said: “Let me assure you just recently, I had (a) meeting (with) chiefs from Matabeleland discussing with them, because I feel there is that bad patch in our history and we would want to correct it, we would want to say whatever wrong was committed we must say, the government of the day must apologise. Wherever a community has suffered any injury, if it is possible to repair that injury, do it , so as a community, as a government, and traditional leaders we have agreed on how to deal with that issue. I am happy (about) that”.
The interviewer then asked if the president may apologise in the future.
This is when Mnangagwa asked the interviewer what her “problem” was.
“My dear, my people and myself are determined to make sure that the commissions of the past, we have to interrogate them, where the government of the day was wrong, we point out that was wrong where the government was correct we should say so and we have put up a commission to interrogate that. I don’t know what your problem is but this is how we are dealing with the situation.”
The Gukurahundi massacres have been a thorn in the flesh for Mnangagwa before and after he came to power.
Just recently, there were demonstrations by Matabeleland-based human rights groups over his role in the massacres.