UNDER FIRE Matabeleland Collective leader, Jenni Williams has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to issue a public apology over the Gukurahundi atrocities committed by government soldiers during the early 1980s.
Mnangagwa was then State Security Minister when the gruesome killings were committed in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
Speaking to journalists soon after Mnangagwa’s meeting with members of the Matabeleland Collective at State House in Bulawayo last Saturday, Williams demanded an apology from the president.
“The head of state is the person who should be able to acknowledge that the soldiers were deployed by the government and we remain committed to identifying how that acknowledgement looks and how the apology looks,” she said.
“But for us, the position is not only the government to do that but our communities carrying that suffering, they have to describe that process,” she said.
Williams said Gukurahundi atrocities were not genocide, but state-sanctioned killings.
“This (Gukurahundi) was not a Rwanda style genocide. This was not people of Shona tribe coming and killing the people of Matabeleland. These were salaried state soldiers who came here and killed people.
“So, for us, the acknowledgement that this is what happened and how it happened is very important,” said Williams who is also the leader of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) leader.
She revealed Mnangagwa will soon launch a documentation programme for Gukurahundi victims in Matobo district in Matabeleland South.
Matobo is close to the notorious Bhalagwe detention camp, the epicentre of the gruesome atrocities.
“We are going to launch this exercise in Matobo district. We are going to take His Excellency to launch in that district because for us that is the centre around Bhalagwe, where these things happened. His Excellency needs to be able to come there and see people, launch this exercise,” she said.
The issuance of documents to Gukurahundi victims, she said, will assist in revealing the truth behind the killings.
“For us in Matabeleland, we want it to be clear these people were killed during Gukurahundi and so the death certificates of our lost loved ones must be a truth-telling element. I think some of those issues have now been addressed,” she added.
Some civic society organisations and opposition political parties have accused Williams of being a sellout following Matabeleland Collective’s recent meetings with Mnangagwa who is also accused of being an accomplice in the atrocities.
Some disgruntled organisations last year disengaged from the Matabeleland Collective and formed a splinter organisation, Matabeleland Forum.