PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will today probably celebrate his first Unity Day in Bulawayo amid a chorus of demands of a full disclosure of what transpired during the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Mugabe will be in the city to officially open the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport’s new terminal building and unveil Father Zimbabwe’s statue along Main Street.
But if statements from opposition parties issued on the eve of his visit are anything to go by, not everyone would be celebrating with the 89-year-old leader.
Zapu led the attacks, questioning the essence of celebrating the signing of the 1987 Unity Accord, between Zapu and Zanu saying it was meaningless.
Former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa who led members of Zapu who pulled out of Mugabe’s party in 2008 citing unfulfilled promises stemming from the Unity Accord said the holiday was not worth celebrating.
“As is well known, Comrade (Cde)Joshua Nkomo had a torrid time soon after independence because his party was an alternative to the ruling party,” he said.
“Zapu was coerced into a lopsided ‘unity’ with Zanu in 1987 which its leader saw as a necessary sacrifice to stop repression aimed at his supporters.
“After its revival in 2008 as an independent entity, Zapu has been championing the cause of true unity of the people, that is, unity based on the principle of equal rights.
“We believe that this is the only durable foundation for peace, recognising that people have equal rights irrespective of their race, ethnicity, language, sex, religion, political affiliation and other affiliations and attributes.”
Dabengwa said although the unveiling of the statue was welcome, Nkomo’s legacy was still not being properly preserved.
“There is a lot of ambivalence in recognition of Cde Joshua Nkomo as the pre-eminent figure in Zimbabwe’s nationalism and as an embodiment of our people’s determination to achieve liberation and human rights by any means necessary, including the armed struggle that changed the balance of power against racist forces,” he said. “Part of the explanation lies in the use and abuse of the notion of ‘unity’.”
Dabengwa added: “The combined honours to Cde Joshua Nkomo’s memory and legacy are welcome, both to the country and to Bulawayo. They are highly deserved and not a favour from anyone.
“These two memorials come more than a dozen years after his passing away in 1999.
“It is a great puzzle that although the decision to erect a statue in Bulawayo was taken many years ago, the completion of this overdue tangible tribute has only come now.
“This delayed honour is even more remarkable and inexplicable now when even Nkomo’s former detractors find it necessary to call him ‘Father Zimbabwe’.
“There was a time when this nationalist giant was vilified as ‘Father of Dissidents’ and his perceived supporters were harassed, detained and in some instances summarily killed particularly in the unresolved ‘Gukurahundi’ genocidal campaign of the early 1980s.”
December 22 was set aside to commemorate the signing of a peace deal in 1987 to end the disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands where the army is accused of killing at least 20 000 people.
MDC-T said it will not attend the ceremonies because Mugabe was fond of using such events to insult its leaders.
“We are not going to attend the Unity Day commemorations because it is where MDC-T party is subjected to hatred by Mugabe and his party,” the party’s spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora told Southern Eye.
“We would not be attending until Mugabe stops political harassment against MDC-T party and its leadership.
“The Unity Day has lost its meaning because it was converted into a partisan day by Zanu PF. It is only celebrated within Zanu PF party,” he added.
However, the MDC party led by Welshman Ncube said it would attend the events to celebrate Nkomo’s legacy.
“We will attend and celebrate the greatest icon. We are a Zimbabwean party that knows where it came from.
“We don’t attend only if that person is not a hero,” Nhlanhla Dube, the MDC spokesperson, said.
Zanu PF has defended the celebration of Unity Day saying Zimbabweans should cherish the peace it ushered in.