The Herald (Harare)

12 February 2013

Zimbabwe: House of Commons Rhodie Motion 'A Racist Stance'

Political parties and analysts yesterday joined Zimbabweans in denouncing the move by the British Parliament to move a motion condemning the shooting of Air Rhodesia Viscount RH827 by Zipra forces during the liberation struggle.

The House of Commons, through Labour MP Kate Hoey, classified the shooting as an atrocity that should be commemorated.

The MP argued that civilians in the flight were killed and there was a need to give February 12, the day the plane was shot down, official recognition.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo described the move as a racist stance.

"It was war time and it was unavoidable," he said.

"This is a racist stance and it is unnecessary to look at it as it would also open old wounds. It does not help in terms of improving relations between Britain and Zimbabwe."

Air Rhodesia Flight 827, flown that day by Umniati, was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury (Harare) that was shot down on February 12, 1979 by Zipra forces soon after take-off in Kariba.

Zipra forces believed Rhodesian Army commander General Peter Walls was in the Viscount plane, but he had changed planes.

None of the 59 passengers or crew survived.

MDC spokesperson Mr Kurauone Chihwayi said the motion had been moved by "misguided elements" in the British Parliament who wanted to discredit the Zipra forces.

"They must give us a chance to build bridges," he said.

"They must not forget their roles in the Chimoio, Tembwe and Nyadzonya massacres. It is not advisable for them to open old wounds at a time like this when we are still trying to heal from the same wounds."

Mr Chihwayi added: "We view this as an attempt by some unrepentant Rhodesians to fuel divisions among Zimbabweans at a time we are trying to find each other. Rhodesians committed serious crimes during the war but we forgave them."

In a statement, Mavambo Kusile Dawn's Tendai Kwari said the motion was opening healing wounds.

"I would like to remind MP Kate Hoey that thousands of poor Zimbabwean refugees were massacred by the Rhodesians at Tembwe and Chimoio," he said.

"These two camps had schools and clinics and thousands of children were butchered. We also would demand for answers and an investigation should be carried out.

"In the Operation Dingo, also known as the Chimoio massacre, more than 3 000 Zanla fighters were reportedly killed and 5 000 wounded while only two Rhodesian government troops died and six were wounded."

Mr Kwari said the attacks at Chimoio were horrible.

"When the first Air Force jets arrived, the assembled Zanla forces did not take cover again as they assumed it was the DC-7 that was returning.

"In their first pass, four Canberra bombers dropped 1200 Alpha bombs (Rhodesian-designed anti-personnel fragmentation weapons) over an area 1,1 kilometres long and half a kilometre wide.

"MP Hoey, I do hope you were not forced to present this motion by former Rhodesians, who can still not accept that a black man in Zimbabwe should be the master of that land," he said.

He said Zimbabwean victims should be compensated by the British Government.

Political analyst Dr Charity Manyeruke said the incident was "unfortunate" but the Britons should understand that it was war time.

"Civilians can be killed and planes can be shot down during war time unless the planes have red cross symbols as required by the International and Humanitarian law," she said.

"There was no way the Zipra forces could have identified that the flight had civilians. In any case, we lost thousands of people but we pardoned them. What they are doing is raising emotions on people who were wounded and are still wounded."

Thousands of Zimbabweans, mainly defenceless refugees, were massacred at camps in Mozambique, Zambia and Angola by Rhodesian elite forces during the liberation struggle.

The British have not condemned such massacres that attracted the attention of the United Nations.

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