Remarks by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi that no arrests will be carried out on those who killed and maimed thousands during the Gukurahundi atrocities arguing the perpetrators were long forgiven by the late former president, Robert Mugabe have sparked anger among Zimbabweans.
Ziyambi said this in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday where he is leading a Zimbabwean delegation to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
He said the government has no “mandate” to prosecute Gukurahundi perpetrators after a blanket amnesty was granted by then Prime Minister Mugabe upon the signing of the unity accord between his party and that of the late vice president Joshua Nkomo in 1987.
“We united our people and parties and that concluded that process at that juncture. We do not have the mandate to go after people and arrest them because of the amnesty that was declared,” Ziyambi said.
Ziyambi also protested the use of the word massacres while referring to Gukurahundi.
“Lastly, madam chair I would like to place on record our objection to use of the term of massacres, where reference is made to disturbances in parts of our country shortly after attainment of sovereign independence in 1980,” he said.
“Soon after independence, because of our close proximity with South Africa that was still under apartheid, there were again disturbances that led to what you refer as Gukurahundi; it was not one sided, and it wasn’t confined to Matabeleland and Midlands but even parts from where I come from, because on the other side, I also lost relatives to dissidents.
‘’In 1987, there was a political settlement to ensure that we bring our people together after the signing of the unity accord between the parties that were involved.”
Reacting to Ziyambi’s remarks, some Zimbabweans said the government had to address the emotive issue.
“We can’t accept reckless statements by Ziyambi, come thunder or lightning the Gukurahundi massacres must be addressed and perpetrators be brought to book that nonsense amnesty means nothing,” said one BBG Mpofu on Twitter.
“We lost parents, friends and relatives; they lost nothing. Where on earth does a perpetrator give himself amnesty? We are being taken for fools.”
Another Twitter user, Alex Muregi said Ziyambi’ remarks were adding to the evidence that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is daring the people of Matabeleland.
“The truth and reconciliation group is defunct,” he decried.
“The region is underdeveloped and has generally been shafted! The rising discontent is being ignored! We need a better government quickly before the situation deteriorates.”
Speaking Friday on This Morning on Asakhe, an online programme hosted by CITE on Twitter Spaces, participants did not have any kind words for Ziyambi.
“Our government has a problem of forgiving itself without asking for an apology,” said a participant only identified as Njabulo.
“It (the government) does things then it forgives itself. When they signed the amnesty, did they go and consult the victims? To say, ‘you guys with what you have gone through, this is what we are going to do, do you agree that we forgive these people? Who gave them the right to pass that judgement to say we are giving everyone amnesty.”
Zenzele Ndebele said despite the amnesty the government still has an obligation to ensure victims are healed and have a closure at the end.
“There are things that the victims want done and that can be done,” he said.
“The first thing is that there are people who simply want reburials. They are saying their relatives are in shallow graves and they want them reburied. That is a process of healing. These are issues that can be done without any grandstanding.”
He added that there was the need for those without documentation to be helped to acquire them adding that all those who lost their benefits as a result of Gukurahundi should be compensated.”