In a one-on-one interview with one of the leading Zimbabwean Newspapers, The Standard, former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has blamed the people of Matabeleland and ZAPU for the Gukurahundi genocide that claimed over 20,000 innocent civilian lives in Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.
As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights we note with concern the continued denialist tendencies by the Gukurahundi genocide perpetrators which is in direct violation of the United Nations Human Rights Council 12 October 2009 Resolution on the Right to Truth on cases of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law; as well as the United Nations General Assembly 16 December 2005 resolution on Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.
Below is the snippet of the Standard Newspaper (Q) Interview with Robert Mugabe (A):
Q: Thousands of people were killed during Gukurahundi. You have come out and said it was a moment of madness. How did the atrocities come about and what can the nation do to move forward?
A: But that one, if we are to tell the truth, it’s the Ndebeles and Zapu and Zipra who should bear the blame. We had that election, in 1980, the first one, and we won, we had 57 seats and Zapu had 20. (Joshua) Nkomo actually wept dearly. They had operated in Angola—remember they had gone to Angola—they said let’s do in Zimbabwe what the MPLA has done; if we lose we will have Zero Hour. And they lost. So what happened? There was a ship of arms received by (the then Tanzanian president Julius) Nyerere in Dar es Salaam port, it came on Tazara (Tanzania-Zambia Railway). Because KK (the then Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda) preferred Nkomo to me, so KK passed on the arms, from the Soviet Union, to Zapu. But now after independence! So at Hwange Dumiso (Zipra intelligence supremo Dabengwa) had made arrangements underground to hide the arms. When the second shipment came, Nyerere then called me and said ‘Robert, what’s this?’ This is a second ship. Then he said ‘ask KK’. I asked Kaunda, you know Kaunda is a very soft man. He said ‘ah, my brother, if I wronged you I did so because the arms addressed to Zapu were always going to Zapu from the Soviet Union. I said ‘but KK, we are now independent’. He said ‘yes I’m sorry and I won’t do it again’. But the ship came and it was received by Dumiso and once again the arms were hidden in Hwange. Zipra had pledged 12 000 war veterans to join the integrated army. They left out some of their experts and in their place, because they had promised 12 000, they put mujibhas (wartime runners) to fill in those places in the army. The mujibhas were trained and they started putting on uniforms and they started earning as trained soldiers. Nothing was happening to the well-trained ones who had been left out. And they saw the mujibhas take their place for a long time and they said ‘ah no we can’t continue like this’. So some amongst them came to us, came to ED and reported that this is the arrangements we had, we put mujibhas in our place and we were left out. (They said) ‘we had arms, we hid arms here and there in Hwange’. So ED and (CIO director David) Stannard went and discovered these guns. That’s why Dumiso was arrested, that’s why he went to prison, that is why Dumiso and ED will never work together. So Dumiso was arrested. But they had already given a few weapons to some individuals who now said ‘ah is this what has happened, we have been discovered’. They started shooting in Matabeleland South and then we said okay we had a Fifth Brigade trained by North Koreans. So we said, fine, face them, you go into Matabeleland South.
Q: Did you give the Fifth Brigade carte blanche to kill people?
A: Ah no, of course you never give. You know soldiers will always be soldiers, the violence will always happen.
Q: But do you regret the situation, with the benefit of hindsight?
A: Naturally the innocent people, yes. But what I don’t accept is that we are totally to blame. Ah ah.
Q: Do you think the state has an obligation to those who lost their families and suffered loss during Gukurahundi? Does the state have an obligation to them?
A: The innocent ones. Even if they lost their lives during (Rhodesian prime minister Ian) Smith’s time, we have an obligation, yes.
Q: What can be done to prevent such atrocities from recurring?
A: We have long said let them (the victims) be known. We asked Sekeramayi to organise so that those who have been affected, those whose lives and children have been…we get to know. But that has not been done.
Q: But you commissioned an official inquiry into Gukurahundi. Why was the report never made public? The Chihambakwe Commission report. It was never published and people out there say it’s because it had evidence that atrocities were committed. Secondly, Mnangagwa says he was not to blame for Gukurahundi because he was not prime minister, he was not the minister of defence, and that he was not carrying a gun. He’s basically saying it’s your issue, not my issue.
A: Ah, but you know he was the minister of intelligence, he’s the one with Stannard, the two of them, who led that and who even led Gukurahundi. I know one of the vehicles, Dabengwa’s vehicle, which they blasted, they said he’s carrying arms.
Q: You were not to blame for Gukurahundi?
A: Ah but yes, of course, they got instructions from us. But we can’t now say the fault is with so and so and so. The fault is with the government and those it employed.
Q: Do you feel that victims and their families should be compensated?
A: Getting victims is a process which must be done thoroughly because many would come and claim.
Q: Do you acknowledge that 20 000 people were killed during Gukurahundi?
A: Ah no. I doubt the number. I doubt the number definitely, because it (the Fifth Brigade) was now pursuing just individuals who had guns. But it could be, because you do get some people with guns just being reckless, and we are seeing it now.
Reckless, they get to a place and they say what are you people saying and they start shooting there.