A culture of impunity in Zimbabwe, where perpetrators of violence walk away scot-free, without paying for their crimes has led to continuous attacks on defenceless citizens, a human rights advocate, Siphosami Malunga, has said.
Malunga, executive director at Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), was speaking at the launch of the Healing and Reconciliation Film Festival, hosted by the Centre of Innovation and Technology Monday.
The Asakhe film festival seeks to contribute towards national healing and reconciliation efforts in Zimbabwe.
Malunga, the guest of honour, noted that due to a lack of accountability by perpetrators, citizens had to endure countless attacks from the state and the ruling party in government.
The human rights activist, who is working on a paper titled ‘History of Atrocity,’ chronicled how Gukurahundi was the worst attack on citizens and went further to highlight how atrocities continue taking place in post-independence Zimbabwe.
“I realised because of impunity, we have had continuous violations of human rights. This has led to continuous atrocities. We can talk about the war where Rhodesians committed worse crimes, the guerrillas also committed crimes, then we had the amnesty but Gukurahundi started, where for five, six years people were being killed,” Malunga said.
Malunga indicated that this violence against citizens continued until the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) where opposition members were attacked.
“You will recall that (the late MDC-T leader, Morgan) Tsvangirai’s driver was burnt. We then saw killings of white farmers in 2000 then on MDC people. This was the same modus operandi, the same killing without any accountability in broad daylight. These were not killings at night, remember Gukurahundi killed during the day and night,” he said.
“This is the same thing because you know you are going to get away with it. You know that you have been licensed to kill, you work for the killers and the killers will protect you.”
The OSISA director lamented that despite convictions some of the perpetrators were often pardoned.
“What happens after 2000? Remember two Central Intelligence Officers (CIOs) who were convicted for killing some citizens, (the late former president Robert) Mugabe pardoned them, which is the worst slap in the wrist for the victims.
“In 1990, three years after the signing of the Unity Accord, when Joshua Nkomo was vice president, (Edgar) Tekere left to form his own party. This was when (former mayor of Gweru and active MDC member) Patrick Kombai was shot by two CIOs guarding then Vice President (Simon) Muzenda in broad daylight. These two were convicted in 1991, Mugabe pardoned then, then one of them, (Rodney) Mashongaidze, later on, became a CIO director,” he alleged.
“What signal are you giving? Saying, ‘it is ok to kill people as long as we have sent you, doing it on our behalf, on behalf of Zanu PF to go and kill people. It’s ok, there will be no consequences whatsoever, you may be tried, arrested and convicted but it’s still ok, don’t worry. When it comes to the end we will make sure you don’t pay any consequences for your actions.’”
“Can you imagine living in a country like this?” decried Malunga.
He also questioned why the state allowed discrimination to thrive.
“You start opening the door to killing somebody, because of a particular trait of their identity, ‘you are white, therefore I can kill you. We are Ndebeles, with one Shona, we can kill you. We are men and one woman, we can kill the woman. How do you open the door to discrimination? How are you going to close it once you open it?”
Malunga said when people started seeing difference as a defining feature, it instrumentalised violence, which is where one identity dominates another.
“This is exactly what happened with Gukurahundi, come 1990, 2000, 2002 then 2008 with Operation Mavotera Papi. 2008 was a blood bath for one reason alone – that you are the opposition. It’s no longer Gukurahundi, no longer about white farmers, now it was, ‘you are MDC’ but this was the same script, same violence, same impunity, same instrumentalisation of power so that you retain and power,” he said.
The human rights advocate noted that violence had not stopped in Zimbabwe and predicted it would likely continue.
“In 2017, there was less blood but still there was use of force to retain and attain power – the coup (that deposed Mugabe). Yes, there were concerns about him cheating but he was an elected president, yet the army, the threat of violence was used,” Malunga said.
“Of course we talk about these as just incidents but they are actually crimes. Gukurahundi was an international crime.”
Malunga, who indicated that for his outspokenness against atrocities, was punished by the state which took over Esidakeni Farm, in Umguza, which he owns alongside NUST scientist Zephaniah Dlamini and gold miner Charles Moyo.
“Nobody is going to give us anything, give you acknowledgement, an apology or say sorry. Ultimately we are going to have to demand justice,” he said.