Reflections on the “Unity Accord” of 1987 in independent Zimbabwe
By Clayton Gonese
Born it was, by the Gukurahundi genocide after the senseless butchery and slaughter of a myriad of the Ndebele people by the government which obtained between 1982-87. In an attempt to make the bloody conflict and imbroglio evaporate, ZANU and ZAPU agreed to marry each other. The Gukurahundi genocide had been bred and born by conflict of interest between ZAPU and ZANU. That is when the arrogance and heartlessness of ZANU reared its ugly head. Even though the genocide could have been easily averted or avoided, ZANU chose what it knows best to “end” the conflict, viz, unleashing terror and bloody violence on the civilian populace. After the unfortunate and regrettable extermination of an estimated more than 20 000 civilians by the North Korean trained ZANU 5th Brigade, a marriage of convenience known as “The Unity Accord” was arrived at.
A close examination of facts shows that only political parties were united but not the civilians yet civilians were/are the bulk of the victims. During the liberation struggle, there was ZAPU and ZANU. The name ZANU PF came into existence in 1987 after ZAPU got married to ZANU. Even though l am saying that the so-called Unity Accord united political parties only, the broad consensus among historians and political analysts is that there was no unity of parties but ZAPU was just swallowed by ZANU. To show that ZAPU was just swallowed, one should note that the name ZANU remained while the name ZAPU was extinguished with only the name “PF” being added. Even Isaac Mabuka (ZAPU Acting President) alluded to that this past Sunday when he mentioned that ZAPU was just swallowed by ZANU. Mabuka even further said that ZAPU was forced to sign the Unity Accord so that ZANU government would stop Gukurahundi operation. If ZAPU was forced to sign the Unity Accord, can we say there was any unity? It leaves a lot to be desired and more questions germinate than answers. Apart from being a forced marriage, Mabuka further argued that ZAPU was just reduced to servants and slavery by ZANU, that is why Dumiso Dabengwa and some ZAPU members withdrew from ZANU PF in 2009. PF, viz, Patriotic Front, was the name used by both ZANU and ZAPU at the Lancaster House conference in 1979 so adding the name PF while ZAPU was discarded shows that ZAPU was thrown under the carpet. One can therefore clearly notice and discern that this was just a horse and rider relationship in which ZANU was the rider while ZAPU was the horse. Just like the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953 in which Southern Rhodesia benefited more from the agreement than Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, that was exactly the same case here. ZAPU was given a blow, it became a pitiful victim of calculated deception, subterfuge and its death certificate was deceitfully authored by the ZANU archbishops of the Reign of Terror in Matabeleland. Uniting political parties while leaving out civilians shows that the unity was deficient. It should be keenly noted that not all citizens affected by Gukurahundi belonged to political parties, most of the victims were just mere Ndebele who were killed and maimed for being Ndebele, only because ZAPU’s main base was in Matabeleland.
If it united people, the only people united were the leaders of political parties. Historians are agreed that the so-called Unity Accord did not unite the bulk of the victims but only united politicians whose relationship had been grossly made sour by the Gukurahundi conflict. If ZANU PF wants people to believe that the Unity Accord united people, why do most direct and indirect victims of Gukurahundi are still grumbling and complaining? Most victims are weeping that they were not even compensated for the damages caused by the ZANU-orchestrated Gukurahundi. Unity should be characterised by truth-telling and genuineness yet all that is absent on the Unity Accord. To make it explicit, the “Unity Accord” was/is destitute, deficient and devoid of enough truth-telling. To claim you have united the people when you still repudiate and refuse to confess guilty for the atrocities or killings is tantamount to telling us high sounding nothings.
Up to now, no perpetrator of Gukurahundi has come open. Perpetrators of Gukurahundi are “known” and some are kingpins in the current government which calls itself the “new Dispensation” but they still refuse to take the blame. Even to apologise, the ZANU leadership refused. Former President Robert Mugabe called Gukurahundi “a moment of madness” while President Emmerson Mnangagwa called it, in 2018, “a closed chapter” when he said “let bygones be bygones. ” Between the perpetrators and victims, who should let bygones be bygones? So Zanu is now trying to force people to forgive it for its cruelty? Forgiveness should, unforcedly, come from the hearts of the victims without being told to sweep everything under the carpet. For one to forgive you, you must firstly acknowledge your mistake. It is naivety of the worst order to think that people can forgive you when you say the genocide was “a moment of madness” and “a closed chapter.” Truthful reconciliation and unity can only come after the perpetrators supplicate or beg for forgiveness. Yes, Joshua Nkomo could have forgiven the perpetrators but arguably Nkomo didn’t represent the hearts of all the Ndebeles. Bitterness is still pregnant in those people’s hearts because even exhumation of the deceased loved ones’ graves has not been done 32 years after Gukurahundi. So the unity Accord could have united political party leaders but not civilians who are still at loggerheads with ZANU. A mature analysis will show that the Unity Accord was only imposed on the people. What kind of unity is imposed? The Unity Accord was authored to just finally kill and stifle dissenting voices without bringing real unity. Real unity is a product of cross-breeding of ideas, logical disputation and ideological intercourse leading to the birth of hybrid ideas. The so-called Unity Accord is not recognized by professional academics, let alone the victims of killings known as Gukurahundi. A rigorous analysis shows that only ZANU PF and its puppets and muppets believe in that false unity.
Did Gukurahundi Really End?
What distinguishes academics from ordinary people is their ability to examine issues critically, dig deep into the ground and then conscientise the public on critical societal issues. Conscientising people is not “prescribing” information to them but it’s only done to divorce public minds from propaganda which is often planted into people’s minds by the ruling elite. Having said that, it should be noted that the direct and physical Gukurahundi was abrogated or ended by the Unity Accord yet the silent, soft and indirect Gukurahundi is totally intact in our society. The victims of Gukurahundi are still weeping everyday. Some of the victims are silenced by ZANU PF if they try to raise their grievances. Gukurahundi was a Reign of Terror which some scholars like A. Astrow describe as “A Revolution That Lost Its Way.” Gukurahundi was purely characterised by suppression of opposition. After the end of Gukurahundi, anyone who dares talk about it in this age is threatened with violence by ZANU PF. I have said that Gukurahundi was violent, can we say that Gukurahundi has really ended when those who dare talk about it are threatened with violence and are even beaten by the government spy dogs? Can we really say Gukurahundi has ended if ZANU PF government is still treating Gukurahundi victims without care? At one point in 2019, the then deputy minister of information Energy Mutodi called the Ndebeles refugees who ran away from Mzilikazi, isn’t that verbal Gukurahundi? If Mutodi and others continue to heap pain, rubbing salt to old wounds of the victims of Gukurahundi, can we really say Gukurahundi has ended? If there was any unity, why do some government ministers continue to plant friction and discord yet they claim to have brought Unity through the so-called Unity Accord? Some children were orphaned and they still suffer from chronic stress inflicted on them by Gukurahundi.If the people who were affected by Gukurahundi still have unnursed mental injuries, can we say Gukurahundi has ended? If the perpetrators still refuse to say sorry, let alone taking the blame, can we say Gukurahundi has been totally abrogated? A closure to something can only be born by truth-telling, compensation of the victims, genuine dialogue as opposed to peddling of high sounding nothings and empty speeches. The fact that Gukurahundi is still a burning issue many years after the so-called Unity Accord shows that Gukurahundi has not ended. To think that Gukurahundi was ended by the so-called Unity Accord is equivalent to generating figment of fertile imaginations which will never survive to witness the end of the day. When you celebrate that Unity Accord, some would be reminded of the torture they were subjected to, especially knowing that the perpetrators are refusing to take the blame. It is my view that Gukurahundi has not ended, it is still intact as evidenced by the ugly head of tribalism which still defines the conflict between the Shona and the Ndebele. To really do away with Gukurahundi, prosecutors and founding Archbishops of that reign of terror and bloody butchery of people known as Gukurahundi should tell the truth. That is the only way tribalism can be resolved in this country because the Gukurahundi genocide gave birth to unnecessary tribalism.
How Did The Unity Accord assault democracy?
Before the so-called Unity Accord, there was the office of the Prime Minister and President. While Robert Mugabe was the Prime Minister before the so-called Unity Accord, Reverend Canaan Banana was the President. Having president and prime minister was a way of neutralising and diluting germination of dictatorship because those two offices would be checking each other’s powers. The coming of the Unity Accord changed the set up and created the executive presidency. Mugabe became the executive president, Joshua Nkomo became the Vice President while the office of Prime Minister was abolished. Mugabe was given too much powers by the so-called Unity Accord that the country began to slowly slide into dictatorship. At any rate, the false union of Zanu and Zapu stifled opposition to the government by creating a one party state system.Students led by the likes of Tendai Biti and Authur Mutambara staged many protests at the University of Zimbabwe between 1987-90 as a way of resisting the executive presidency and one party state system brought by the So-called Unity Accord. One of the then esteemed academics called Professor Jonathan Mlevu Moyo wrote extensively, arguing that the one party state system brought by the Unity Accord was nothing but one big blow and assault on democracy. One party system is meant to silence dissenting voices much to the detriment of democracy. In their book called How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Zibblat argue that “the backsliding of democracy is often gradual, with its effects manifesting overtime” and they also say, “the death of democracy takes place piecemeal, often in baby steps, none of the steps truly appears to threaten democracy”. The so-called Unity Accord which created one party state while giving more powers to the president was an assault on democracy and rule of law. It was “one baby step” whose effects manifested slowly overtime. Much of the dictatorship which is at the pivot of our society was given birth to by the so-called Unity Accord. If democracy dies slowly, those who need answers on the currently ensuing dictatorship should look back and closely examine the so-called Unity Accord in spite of some events that took place during the liberation struggle.
Names of Provinces
The names of Zimbabwean provinces are something that one can look at and begin to wonder. Although Gukurahundi was a political expediency sponsored by Zanu, it should not be forgotten that tribalism also played it’s role in the cooking and fermentation of Gukurahundi. Had the Unity Accord been truthful, it should have been careful enough to notice that changing names of provinces could be one of the panaceas to kill tribalism. We still exist as Matabeleland and Mashonaland. If one hears about those names, they would think those are two countries. Although those names are mere geographical appellations denoting origins, one should note that they partly contribute to the unending existence of tribalism in Zimbabwe. Even MDC Alliance President Nelson Chamisa when he was campaigning in Bulawayo in 2018, he bemoaned tribalism connotations which lie in those names hence should be changed through dialogue, logical disputation and cross-breeding of ideas. Yes, the Unity Accord can’t be completely rubbished but the authors of that document should have continued to review it to reach at true unity.
When some would be busy celebrating the so-called Unity Accord, some academics and philosophers like me would be bemoaning the great injuries and wounds that it brought on our democracy. As pointed out above, we would be asking questions, did the Unity Accord bring unity? If it brought Unity, it brought it who and how? Although the so-called Unity Accord can only be eulogised and praised for putting a full stop to bloodshed, note should be taken to note that its principles should be circumspectly and carefully revised in order to concretely end Gukurahundi. More than 30 years after the Unity Accord, the country is still saturated with tribal disunity which should be made to condense and evaporate.
Clayton Gonese is a Humanities student at Highfield High One in Harare- Zimbabwe. He is a passionate Political analyst and literature aficionado.
Author, historian & columnist
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