Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa made the deadly threats to exterminate people of Matabeleland suspected of sheltering anti-government rebels known as ‘dissidents’, comments he is now denying, former editor of the Chronicle Geoffrey Nyarota has said.
Nyarota made the comments in a statement Wednesday after Mnangagwa threatened to sue Bulawayo lawyer and Gukurahundi genocide investigator David Coltart, claiming he had misquoted him.
Nyarota dared Mnangagwa to sue the Chronicle, of which he was editor when it published the statements and not the lawyer, former education minister and MDC senator. Coltart published the inflammatory comments in his autobiography, ‘The Struggle Continues’, quoting the Chronicle..
Mnangagwa is quoted ordering the notorious Fifth Brigade to burn down houses of people accused of supporting anti-government insurgents in Matabeleland in the 1980s. The vice president now denies making the comments, prompting Nyarota to defend his reputation.
“David Coltart is right,” Nyarota said. “Minister Mnangagwa would be ill-advised to sue him for including in his new book statements attributed to the minister in The Chronicle on April 5, 1983. The minister never sued The Chronicle for publishing the statements. In fact the minister never even complained. Aggrieved persons have up to a total of three years to sue newspapers or other publications for defamation. In this case Minister Munangangwa had up to April 4, 1986, to sue for defamation. After this date the statements he now complains of became embedded in the public domain an an unchallenged record of events, which can be repeated in other publications without risk of being sued for defamation. Incidentally, Tuesday, April 5, 1983 was the day that I effectively took over from Tommy Sithole as Editor of The Chronicle, having been appointed on Good Friday, April 1. If the minister could still sue The Chronicle over these statements then I would go down in history as the first editor to be sued for defamation on the first day of his appointment on a newspaper.”
Political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya, commenting under the hash tag #TheGuiltyAreAfraid said, “Zimbabwe’s national vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, life-long ZANU PF crony, is trembling at the prospect of facing ICC Hague judges after being exposed as an agent of provocation during the deadly genocide madness Gukurahundi in the 1980s. Of course he is expected to deny and accuse lawyer/author/human rights activist David Coltart of ‘fabricating’ the story. I wish God can ‘inspire’ Mr. Mnangagwa to take David to court, then it will be an opportunity to bring 100 survivors as witnesses. There will be a massive campaign called #DavidIsRight – to raise one million US$ for his legal defence, transport and welfare of witnesses, urging at least one million petitioners to donate one dollar each in his lawyer’s account.”
In a front page article headlined “Minister defends Five Brigade” published on March 5, 1983, The Chronicle reported: “Likening the dissidents to cockroaches and bugs, the minister said the bandit menace had reached such epidemic proportion that the government had to bring ‘DDT’ (Five Brigade) to get rid of the bandits.”
DDT was a deadly pesticide, which is now banned almost everywhere in the world. The Chronicle said Mnangagwa, then the State Security Minister, was speaking at a rally in Victoria Falls also addressed by the Minister of National Supplies Enos Nkala and the Minister of Trade and Commerce, Richard Hove.
“The government had two options to deal decisively with the dissident menace,” the Chronicle paraphrased Mnangagwa as saying. “One was to burn down all villages infested with dissidents and the other was to bring in the Five Brigade. The government chose the latter.”
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