New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Gukurahundi - Tell Us Who Was Mad, Mugabe Challenged

A SENIOR Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) official has weighed into calls by the opposition MDC Renewal Team for redress of 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities by demanding that President Robert Mugabe explain his "moment of madness" excuse.

Rights groups say as many as 20,000 civilians were killed when Mugabe - then prime minister - deployed an army unit to track down dissidents who were said to have murdered 120 people, mutilated 25, raped 47 and committed 284 robberies in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions.

Specially trained for the job by the reclusive North Korean regime, the Five Brigade was first headed by Perrence Shiri - current head of the country's air force.

Mugabe later set up the Chihambakwe Commission to investigate alleged army atrocities but its report was never published and it remains unclear whether its recommendations - still unknown to victims and ordinary Zimbabweans - were ever acted upon.

Amid calls for those responsible to be made accountable for their actions and for compensation to be paid to victims, Mugabe refused to apologise for the killings, only describing them as "a moment of madness".

But LSZ deputy executive secretary, Wilbert Mandinde, said they have been challenging Mugabe to ensure the "mad" individuals who perpetrated the atrocities are "medically examined and treated" to ensure the country does not suffer such violence in the future.

Mandinde spoke after leaders of the Renewal Team - a breakaway group of the opposition MDC-T party - pledged to compensate victims of the killings should they form a future government.

Anger festers in the Matabeleland and Midlands areas over the atrocities and political analysts warn that the emotive subject could threaten stability in the country once its strongman leader was out of the picture.

Speaking at a public human rights meeting in Harare early this week, Mandinde said: "I once penned an article asking what the President meant when he said that it (Gukurahundi) was a time of madness.

"Who was mad? It was necessary, during that time, to know and it is still necessary to know who was mad in that particular moment in time. What caused the madness?

"We were, for example, concerned to know whether that madness had been treated because if the madness has not been treated it will recur.

"I am a former magistrate myself and, in the court, if someone is brought to you and there are suspicions that this person is suffering from a mental illness like what happened to Oscar Pistorius, as a magistrate, you would say the accused person should be examined by two doctors in terms of the Mental Health Act.

"So it was particularly necessary that those who were alleged to be mad at that (Gukurahundi) point be examined by medical doctors so that the madness will be established. It was important that that had to be done because we later on saw another moment of madness.

"As we speak, we are worried because, really if they are still mad like as we say in Shona that 'mwedzi unogona kuita mutete, saka mwedzi ukaita mutete futi' then we see things such what we witnessed during the 2008 elections.

"When violence cannot be stopped at such a large scale inoshamisa."

The killings - which were said to target supporters of the rival PF Zapu led by Joshua Nkomo - ended when Mugabe's Zanu PF party swallowed up its rival in the so-called 1987 unity accord.

Mugabe wants the agreement to be the last word on the controversy.

But Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, interim leader of the MDC Renewal Team warned that victims may forgive but they would never forget until the government ensured proper and just redress.

"My own brother was killed by Gukurahundi. We can forgive, but will not forget," Sipepa Nkomo told supporters in Bulawayo on Sunday.

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