HARARE – Some angry Zimbabweans have called on newly-appointed Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko to either resign from his post or apologise profusely and unreservedly for his “thoughtless” views on the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres.
This was after controversial utterances were attributed to Mphoko at the weekend which seemingly absolved the Zanu PF leadership led by President Robert Mugabe for the massacres, and instead shifted the blame to apartheid South Africa and the West.
Mugabe himself has since described the massacres as “a moment of madness” in the country’s history.
“When Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, Apartheid South Africa was under threat from the ANC through Zimbabwe.
“Western intelligence together with the South African intelligence BOSS and the out-going Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) designed a strategy to destroy the lines of military supply of the ANC and MK under the pretext that the newly-independent Zimbabwe was under threat of being attacked by former Zapu/Zipra in Matabeleland.
“That falsehood was intended to create a military force to deal with the perceived threat. That is how Gukurahundi was formed and that is how it became a Western conspiracy,” Mphoko was quoted by online media as allegedly saying at the weekend.
Mphoko’s phone was first answered by a man claiming to be his son and then a security aide when the Daily News on Sunday called him for comment yesterday, with both men pointedly refusing to identify themselves by name but nevertheless denying emphatically that the VP was the author of the offending sentiments.
“It is not the vice president but his son,” said the first man who answered Mphoko’s cellphone, adding, “but I can tell you that he did not write that letter. Let me hand you over to his aide”.
“This is the work of his political enemies who want to tarnish his image. You know it happens in politics. I suppose he did not write that letter,” said the other man who said he was Mphoko’s aide, adding further, “You Daily News people I will not give you my name because I don’t want it associated with this”.
In the offending weekend comments, Mphoko is alleged to have said that he was a Gukurahundi victim himself, as he had allegedly been arrested together with Edward Ndlovu, Welshman Mabhena, Sydney Malunga and others.
Okay Machisa, the ZimRights director, called on the former ambassador to apologise to the nation if the utterances were true.
Machisa said by insinuating that Gukurahundi was a creation of foreigners, Mphoko was insulting Zimbabweans.
“What he (Mphoko) needs to understand is that he is now a vice president which is a post that comes with respect.
“So, for him to provoke the people saying it was caused by foreigners is very unfortunate as he is inflicting more pain to the victims,” said Machisa.
Mphoko’s alleged insinuations also infuriated the opposition MDC which came out guns blazing, demanding that he resigns forthwith.
Obert Gutu, the MDC spokesperson said it was regrettable that the VP was failing to acknowledge that Gukurahundi was a crime against humanity perpetrated by Mugabe’s government.
Gutu expressed shock that Mphoko could refuse to acknowledge that the atrocities which led to the death of an estimated 20 000 innocent people had nothing to do with the West.
“If anything, the VP owes the people of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in particular, and Zimbabweans in general, an unconditional apology.
“In view of his lack of empathy for the unprecedented suffering brought about by Gukurahundi, the VP should do the honourable thing and resign because he is a complete and utter disgrace to Zimbabwe,” Gutu said.
Last week Dumiso Dabengwa, the Zapu President, told Mphoko to “shut up” about his liberation struggle role, accusing him of having been a Zanu cadre who was now embellishing his struggle role.
This was after Mphoko had claimed to have been commander of a joint operations force of Zipra and ANC’s Umkhonto Wesizwe.
Responding online to Mphoko’s alleged utterances, a Thulani Nkala said this was not the first time the VP had allegedly uttered similar sentiments.
“In 2009 in Botswana, when Mphoko was the ambassador there, he termed the genocide the conspiracy by the Western nations. Yesterday, he went on to try and expand on what he meant when he raised the conspiracy argument.
“To all discerning people, what Mphoko is trying to do is to absolve Zanu PF of its cruel and dirty chapter in the history of the nation.
“Could it be that Mr Mphoko is singing for his supper? Could it be that Mr Mphoko does not realise that his vice presidency will be short-lived and he would have soiled his legacy if ever he had one?” he said.
Nkala went on to allege that some people were beginning to think that Mphoko was part of the Gukurahundi massacre and that he did not want to come clean on his CIO involvement.
“It is public knowledge that the CIO played a nefarious role during the genocide, abducting, torturing and killing Zapu leaders and ordinary people. Unless and until Mr Mphoko explains his activities between the years 1981 and 1987, people will never take him seriously as he will be viewed as part of the establishment,” he said.