PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe was at his acerbic worst on Sunday telling former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai “to go to hell”, accusing him of working with the West to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.
The unnecessary vitriol spewed at the unveiling of late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue in Bulawayo spoilt what should have been an event to unite Zimbabweans from across the divide.
Mugabe accused his opponents of “committing treason of the worst kind”, but in the same breadth claimed: “We don’t mind an opposition within the country.”
He also accused those who have left Zanu PF for various reasons after the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 of “infidelity and disloyalty to Umdala Wethu”. The expectation was that Mugabe had learnt something from his association with the man he was honouring on Sunday after the bloody onslaught on his Zapu party before the accord.
Mugabe would be remembered for similar speeches in the 1980s attacking Nkomo for challenging his leadership.
At the height of the Gukurahundi killings, he was once quoted saying: “Zapu and its leader Joshua Nkomo are like a cobra in a house.
“The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head.”
History records that an estimated 20 000 people were murdered in Matabeleland and the Midlands during that time by a militia trained by North Koreans under Mugabe’s watch.
The killings were purely driven by intolerance for opposing views as represented by Zapu at the time.
Mugabe’s vilification of the opposition sadly bears a striking resemblance to his actions during that dark episode of Zimbabwe’s history.
The celebration of Unity Day would remain hollow as long as our leaders do not practice what they preach. Tolerance should start with those at the top. Mugabe is an experienced politician and therefore should know that not all his supporters are sophisticated enough not to take some of his statements as gospel truth.
There are some who took the president’s claims that the opposition has “committed treason of the worst kind” for a fact and could seek to take the law into their own hands to punish those “treasonous” elements.
Zimbabwe saw that happening after Gukurahundi such as in the period during the 2008 elections.
Nkomo left a legacy of peace and tolerance and our leaders should stop spoiling it.