Muzariri a 'killer not war hero'

THE volatile Matabeleland region is seething over President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF's decision to bury former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director Mernard Muzariri with a trumpet blasts at the Heroes Acre this week.

Muzariri, declared a national hero by Mugabe and his party for his contribution to Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, was given a state funeral and buried on Thursday at the North Korean-built Heroes Acre in Harare.

However, political parties and civil society groups in Matabeleland, a region fiercely opposed to Zanu-PF, say the move showed Mugabe and his party’s lack of remorse over civilian massacres that occurred in the region between 1982 and 1987.

Activists say Muzariri was involved in the Gukurahundi killings, in which at least 20 000 civilians in the southwestern and Midland regions were slaughtered by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade. Most of the victims were minority Ndebele civilians who supported PF-Zapu, led by the late Joshua Nkomo.

Mugabe and Nkomo, as well as their parties Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu, were bitter rivals.

After gaining power in 1980, Mugabe unleashed a reign of terror in a bid to destroy Nkomo and his party to establish a one-party state and ensure that he became president-for-life.

Activists say Muzariri was central in the murders of civilians during the civil strife and should not have been buried at Heroes Acre.

Muzariri was posted to Bulawayo, the capital of Matabeleland region, in 1982 where he was responsible for all CIO operations.

The agency, working with the Fifth Brigade and other state security forces, has been accused of committing gross human rights abuses and atrocities.

This is seen as part of the reasons for Mugabe’s fear to relinquish power.

Zapu spokesman Methuseli Moyo said Muzariri’s hero status confirmed that Zanu-PF had a "blueprint" for the massacres as it rewarded all those who were involved.

"Muzariri’s national hero status confirms that Zanu-PF intended to kill and suppress the opposition [Zapu] in the early 1980s. Muzariri was directly involved in the mass brutal killings and declaring him a national hero is celebrating his legacy. As long as one is associated with Mugabe and is a killer he is guaranteed of national honours," Moyo said.

Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda leader, Effie Ncube, said the move undermined reconciliation and national healing efforts. "How can people forgive and forget when Zanu-PF is giving gun salutes to the same people who were involved in the killings of more than 20000 defenceless citizens in the Midlands and Matabeleland?" Ncube said.

"As long as things like this continue to happen, the Heroes Acre will never be taken as a legitimate national shrine because most of the people buried there are mass murderers. Those affected by Gukurahundi are getting the message loud and clear from Zanu-PF – the party does not care nor regret the killings."

Zenzele Ndebele, a filmmaker who has produced a documentary on Gukurahundi, said the Muzariri issue compromised efforts to move Zimbabwe beyond the bitter memories of the massacres.

"Zanu-PF arrests the victims who want this issue addressed, while protecting and honouring perpetrators. All those who have blood on their hands are promoted and credited with influential positions in government, the army, police and the secret service. There seems to be a club of Gukurahundi criminals out there who are untouchable," Ndebele said.

National Healing and Reconciliation co-minister Moses Mzila Ndlovu has also been arrested for saying that there won’t be any reconciliation without justice for victims.

Ndlovu gave an emotional address during a public debate forum, Independent Dialogue Series, on transitional justice on Wednesday in Bulawayo, saying it was not possible to bring perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice when they were still in power.

Human rights lawyer Kucaca Phulu said holding perpetrators to account was difficult because atrocities were committed by army, police and intelligence officers with orders from the top.

In a speech at his burial, Mugabe described Muzariri’s death as a blow to the nation and urged the younger generation to emulate his deeds.

Mugabe has not openly apologised for the massacres, except admitting that they were an "act of madness". – TimesLive