By Sechaba Lunkunku
Former president Robert Mugabe’s nephew has made a sensational claim about the 1982 murder of six western tourists in Matabeleland North, saying both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga, were “involved”.
At the time, reports said the tourists were kidnapped by up to 12 armed men as they were riding on a truck from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo during a safari. The tourists were two Americans Kevin Ellis, 24, and Brett Baldwin, 23, two Australians, Tony Bajzelz, 25, and William Butler, 31; and two Britons, James Greenwell, 18, and Martyn Hodgson, 35.
The killings, which the government blamed on the dissidents, became the justification for the deployment of the Fifth Brigade throughout Matebeleland the following year.
Government claimed that the dissidents said their victims would be freed if the state released senior Zapu officials who were then held on suspicion of treason. There was also a claim that dissidents wanted Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo to be reinstated in government. Nkomo had been expelled from government after the discovery of arms in Zapu farms that same year.
Mugabe blamed the abductions on “an isolated gang of bandits” saying they were “operating on instructions from Zapu leaders . . . Their actions are centrally motivated and are being carried out in order to bring about destabilisation of our country, leading to a possible change of government”.
Diplomats from the western countries flocked at Nkomo’s house to ask him if he could release the abducted six, the suggestion being that he was the leader of the assailants something which incensed the Zapu leader.
Government was to send 2,000 soldiers on aircraft and helicopters to scour the bush near the Botswana border for weeks for the missing tourists and their alleged captors while Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s aides offered a reward of $20,000 for information leading to the captives’ safe return.
The tourists’ remains were discovered in 1985. Two people were executed for their alleged involvement in the murder.
But, according to Zhuwao, both Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were also involved.
“EDiot Mnangagwa’s gratitude to Margaret Thatcher is founded on how the British Government has assisted EDiot Mnangagwa and Chiwenga to hide their involvement and complicity in the abduction and murder of western tourists in June 1982 in Matebeleland,” wrote Zhuwao in his article published in New Zimbabwe.
He added, “At that time, Chiwenga was the commander of 1 Brigade in the Region, whilst EDiot Mnangagwa was the Minister responsible for intelligence”.
Zhuwao’s comments come two days after Mnangagwa told reporters in Davos that he was eager to meet British Prime minister, Theresa May, because he “believed” she was going to be “good” to Zimbabwe like Thatcher (PM at the time of the abductions).