Pretoria – Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Tshwane metro police rushed to quell tempers at Zimbabwe People First (Zim PF) leader Joice Mujuru’s rally in Mamelodi in Pretoria on Saturday as activists invaded the pitch, demanding answers over the emotive Gukurahundi massacres which left around 20 000 people dead in the 1980s.
Supporters of Mujuru, Zimbabwe’s former vice-president, tackled the two men who were waving placards, demanding answers over the Gukurahundi massacres in Matebeleland province.
The pair was swiftly manhandled by Mujuru’s supporters as they fought back. They were taken away and police intervened, escorting them out of the stadium.
Zimbabwe’s Gukurahundi massacres saw up to 20 000 villagers and opponents of then prime minister Robert Mugabe killed in the mid-1980s and remains a salient, thorny, and highly controversial political hot potato in Zimbabwe.
Memories of the killings, carried out by the country’s elite North Korean-trained fifth brigade army unit in the south of the country, are strong among many in Zimbabwe’s Ndebele ethnic group and contribute to their distrust of Mugabe and Mujuru who was a cabinet minister then and wife of the late general Solomon Mujuru who was the country’s chief military commander at the time. Mugabe offered a part-apology for the killings in 1999, saying they were “a moment of madness”.
Mujuru, who has since been fired from Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean government and formed her Zim PF party, recently told her supporters she was planning to visit mass graves of Gukurahundi victims, particularly Balagwe in Maphisa, Matabeleland South province.
On Saturday, one Zimbabwean, Vusi Sibanda, said Mujuru had a lot to explain.
“Right now I do not have a father because Joice’s husband killed him. She is complicit in those murders of our people. Has she become a saint suddenly because she was fired from Zanu PF. I came here to demand answers,” said Sibanda as he was roughed out of the HM Pitje Stadium in Mamelodi.
Another protester who preferred to be identified only as Sfiso, said Mujuru’s remarks about visiting Gukurahundi graves had touched a raw nerve.
“Mujuru can address her rally anywhere but she must not mention Gukurahundi. We will not allow that to happen. She can’t turn around and use Gukurahundi to campaign now. She is one of the architects of that massacre,” said Sifiso.
Mujuru was scheduled to address her “star rally” in Mamelodi where numerous Zimbabweans live, but the event was marred by poor organisation and attendance.
The event was scheduled to start after 9am but by 12.30pm only a small crowd of Zimbabweans were in the venue while others were leaving. Mujuru had not yet arrived at the stadium. “Mujuru continues to lie to us. I work in a restaurant and I’ve got to go before my shift starts.
Their posters have been urging us to be here in the morning,” said Zimbabwean Nyasha Mukoni as she went away with her friends. Scores of Zimbabweans were walking out of the small stadium after midday.