The Sunday Mail
Disturbances that occurred in Matabeleland in the early 1980s were engineered by Westerners to protect their economic interests in South Africa, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko has said.
VP Mphoko told The Sunday Mail on the eve of Unity Day last week that Independent Zimbabwe and its liberated neighbours like Mozambique threatened these economic interests, making them destabilisation targets.
Zimbabwe’s southern parts, mainly Midlands and Matabeleland, were major routes used by the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, to launch attacks on the apartheid regime.
What followed, the VP said, was a Rhodesian operation to spur the civil disturbances now commonly referred to as Gukurahundi and viewed by some as an anti-Ndebele crusade by Shonas.
The violence ended with President Mugabe and Dr Joshua Nkomo signing a unity pact that amalgamated Zanu and Zapu, the country’s foremost political parties, into Zanu-PF.
The Unity Accord – signed on December 22, 1987 – is celebrated yearly.
And on its 28th anniversary, VP Mphoko said though some have disagreed with his account (exclusively reported by The Sunday Mail on February 15, 2015) on what triggered the disturbances, his research and intelligence work indicated impeccable evidence of foreign involvement.
Such “conspiracy theories”, he said, were still alive and actively working to worm their way back into Zimbabwe.
“People can disagree with me; I don’t mind … Now, the conspiracies of ’80 were very violent, and that is when we had a situation in Matabeleland,” said VP Mphoko, the Zapu Chief of Logistics during the liberation war.
“It is known that as we were at Lancaster (for Independence talks), we had units all over the country. The Rhodesians were still fighting us, even after the signing of the agreement.
“It was now clear — that’s important — that the issue of Rhodesia has now ended; it’s finished, and Zimbabwe is attaining its independence. And if Zimbabwe is attaining its independence, what’s going to happen to South Africa?”
The VP went on: “South Africa was the West’s biggest concern. Their economy is there, the money there is theirs. What is going to happen to South Africa? They knew that (South Africa’s liberation movement) the ANC was working with the Patriotic Front, with us — Zapu — in particular.
“You could not distinguish between a Zipra and MK cadre. They couldn’t draw a line, so the only thing to do was come up with a fictitious story that Zapu wants to overthrow the Government. And they deployed their forces. All along, they had been trying to find an excuse.
“The force did not go to Mashonaland, no. The Midlands! The routes (that MK used from its bases in Zambia) to South Africa were between the Midlands and Matabeleland, and that’s the reason why there was this conspiracy.
“In Mozambique, they knew that they had done their job there. Renamo was on the ground, blocking the ANC. The South Africans were now in some parts of Mozambique, fighting with Renamo. So, this is the conspiracy that, in actual fact, people want to refuse to accept.”
VP Mphoko said it was telling that Britain did not take punitive action against the Ian Smith regime for rebelling against the Crown with its Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
Instead, he said, Rhodesia’s interim Governor Lord Soames reinstated Smith’s Army chief, Peter Walls, and others who were later co-opted into apartheid South Africa’s security sector.
“You can’t ignore the fact that even up to now, the whites in South Africa are not sure whether they are going to be pushed into the sea or what. They are not sure about that. So, you can’t take it lightly, thinking that things were normal. They were not.
“The British themselves gave power to some of the generals there . . . The majority of those people left (Zimbabwe), joining the South African services, especially the intelligence.
“So, you cannot say the Rhodesians were not concerned about South Africa. That’s the conspiracy I’ve always talked about.”
The VP said Zapu and Zanu had always collaborated way before the Unity Accord, dismissing claims that the former compromised solely to end “the onslaught on Ndebeles”.
“(Some think) it was unity under duress; we wanted a ceasefire. No, it was not. The Unity Accord we are talking about is much more than the one of 1987. It started in 1972. And the unity of the people of Zimbabwe is very important. People have wrong perceptions.
“. . .The conspiracy I am talking about is still there. A united people can achieve a lot. But you see, there must always be disunity in order not to achieve something. The unity subsists because the people are there, and we still have some of these fundamentalists who want to destroy the unity and claim that no woman, no Ndebele can lead the country.
“The moment you start looking at Mugabe from a tribal point of view you are not a leader yourself, unless you are a fundamentalist. Look at the President as a person, as a national leader. Look at Emmerson (VP Mnangagwa) not as a Mukaranga or anything else, but as a national leader.”
He added: “Look at any other person as a national leader, not according to their tribe. And that is going to hold. There are people who are going to be fighting to destroy this (unity). There are people who are going to be fighting to maintain it.
“These two forces are there. We committed other people’s children into this war, and they are dead. People who are genuine are going to fight, making sure that this unity continues. It’s a struggle; it has to be maintained.
“It doesn’t mean there is no unity. No, there is, but there are other forces which are fighting. They will always be there. There will always be those who want to undermine you and so forth. This is what it means. Life goes on.”