President Emmerson Mnangagwa has come under fire for reportedly passing comments seen as downplaying the degree of State sponsored violence in the bloody 2008 elections.
Former President Robert Mugabe lost the first round of elections to the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai before the then Zanu PF leader forced through a run off poll from which the former Prime Minister pulled out at the eleventh hour citing systematic violence against his supporters that left over 300 dead and many displaced.
In a statement the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) said it was dismayed with Mnangagwa’s comments.
“ZimRights notes with disappointment the attempts by Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to downplay the 2008 election violence in Zimbabwe,” said the statement.
Mnangagwa reportedly told the Economist magazine that the 2008 election whose result was rejected at home and abroad resulting in the formation of a Government of National Unity between Mugabe and Tsvangirai was “free and fair”.
“It was fair, very fair. Where is the evidence for violence? Not a single case was taken to the police,” the President was quoted as having told the international business magazine.
ZimRights accused Mnangagwa of denialism.
“This denialism and revisionism about one of the most violent and sham elections in Zimbabwe is dismaying especially coming from the Head of State and Government.
“Statements such as the one made by President Mnangagwa coming ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections paint the impression that political violence is covered up and tolerated by his government,” said ZimRights.
Mnangagwa has been preaching the gospel of a peaceful election since taking over and has promised a credible, free and fair election as well as allowing international observers something that was anathema under Mugabe.
“ZimRights wishes to remind the President that the formation of the Government of National Union (GNU) in February 2009 was a direct result of the contested legitimacy of the 2008 election on account of violence, which was acknowledged by both the AU and Sadc.”
The rights lobby group said many citizens had borne the brunt of the violence and expected Mnangagwa and his government to at least acknowledge their pain and suffering.
“There are many victims of political violence, who are looking forward to the same government for rehabilitation on account of personal injury or death of a relative or relatives.
“The victims are also expecting the government to institute a genuine peace, truth-telling and reconciliation process apart from condemning and guaranteeing non-recurrence of the gross violations that took place,” ZimRights said.
Mnangagwa has already signed the Truth and Reconciliation Bill into law and established a Commission to deal with State excesses under Mugabe.
The group added: “ZimRights is particularly concerned by the general approach of denying or downplaying the past by the government, which is a hindrance to truth-telling and reconciliation efforts and processes espoused in the Constitution.”