Top Mugabe official raises ghost of tribal massacres

A top official of President Robert Mugabe’s party has issued an unprecedented condemnation of the massacres of up to 20 000 civilians of Zimbabwe’s minority Ndebele people three decades ago.

Jonathan Moyo, a member of the powerful politburo of the Zanu-PF party that came to power in 1980, was quoted in the party-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper saying that the massacres were “a dark point in our history.”

The comment was seen as a sign of deepening strife within the formerly monolithic ruling party

The killings were carried out by Mugabe’s security forces during a low level insurgency during the early 1980s in the western province of Matabeleland, home of the Ndebele-speaking tribe.

The government’s reaction was “outrageously disproportionate” to the threat, Moyo said, although he stopped short of calling for an investigation.


There have been no reparations made to families of the victims and no apologies.

Calling for ‘change’
Mugabe, 87, once said the atrocities were “a moment of madness” but buried a government report on the affair.

Moyo is a controversial figure, a former academic and articulate critic of Mugabe who later joined Zanu-PF, defected and then changed sides again.

Commentators say he stirred anger among Mugabe’s old guard last week by calling for “change” in the party.

His remarks about the massacres were seen as a direct challenge to long-term Mugabe loyalist and powerful defence minister Emmerson Munangagwa, who is seen as the most likely successor to Mugabe.

Munangagwa last week declared that the Matabeleland killings were “a closed chapter.”

Divided
Opposition politicians have recently been arrested for pressing for open debate on the issue.

After three decades of running Zimbabwe as a virtual one-party state, Zanu-PF is said to be deeply divided, particularly over elections expected in the next two years.

Mugabe loyalists demand he should be “president for life” but a large younger group — with Moyo as apparent spokesman — insist that he will be too frail to undertake an election campaign.

Mugabe was forced by neighbouring states led by South Africa into a coalition in 2008 with pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is thought likely to beat Mugabe in elections.

He won more votes than Mugabe in the last election earlier that year but Mugabe effectively seized power after a national campaign of murder and torture targeting Tsvangirai’s supporters. — Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: George Euvrard, the brains behind our cryptic crossword

George Euvrard spoke to Athandiwe Saba about his passion for education, clues on how to solve his crosswords and the importance of celebrating South Africa.

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

More top stories

Covid claims Zimbabwe’s foreign minister amid surge in cases

Sibusiso Moyo, the third Zimbabwean minister to die from the virus, was a potential successor to the president

No one should be as rich as Elon Musk

The reactions to Elon Musk’s billionaire status are evidence that far too many South Africans have not fully grasped the destructive consequences of inequality. Entrepreneur...

Department of basic education edges closer to releasing matric results

The basic education department has said that it is almost done with the marking process and that the capturing of marks is in progress.

The rare fairytale of Percy Tau

Through much hard work and a bit of good fortune, the South African attacker has converted a potential horror story into magic
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…