Justice ministry threatens to sue in Mnangagwa defence

JUSTICE, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs ministry permanent secretary, Virginia Mabhiza yesterday came to the defence of her principal, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and warned that any “falsehoods” peddled against him in connection with the emotive Gukurahundi issue would attract legal action.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/KHANYILE MLOTSHWA

Addressing journalists in Bulawayo, Mabhiza said her ministry would not hesitate to sue if the sensitive Gukurahundi statements attributed to Mnangagwa in former Education minister David Coltart’s recently-launched book, were proved untrue.

Coltart in his book, The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe, cited a 1983 Chronicle newspaper article, where statements were attributed to Mnangagwa, likening dissidents to “cockroaches and bugs”.

Early this week, Mnangagwa issued a statement claiming he has never uttered the words intimating his lawyers were perusing Coltart’s book and he would take appropriate action.

“There is an article which appeared yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday), which appeared to us, from the VP’s office, where there is a concern about certain statements attributed to the VP and out of that you are saying we are scaring people not to freely express themselves. That is not true and out of context,” Mabhiza said.

“The Ministry of Justice is there to protect rights and not to scare anyone, and we also don’t promote falsehoods.

“Falsehoods, if confirmed to be falsehoods, should be actively acted upon without taking any sides. This is a political issue, which, us as officials do not concern ourselves with.”

Coltart has already warned Mnangagwa he would be poorly advised if he was to sue.

Veteran journalist, Geoff Nyarota, who assumed editorship of the Chronicle a month after the paper had published Mnangagwa’s utterances, said the Vice-President had not complained nor sued the newspaper when the utterances were published.

Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo, responding to a question on social networking site, Twitter, yesterday, said “denialism is not the best way to deal with things done or said during Gukurahundi, period: Their record is public”.

The enduring Gukurahundi issue has once again been brought to the fore by Coltart’s autobiography, which shines a light into Mnangagwa’s role.
A number of authors and scholars have written extensively about the role Mnangagwa allegedly played during the time and he has not publicly denied the allegations.

It is reported that more than 20 000 lives were lost in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces during Gukurahundi.

Meanwhile, the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has urged victims and survivors of the Gukurahundi massacres to take a leaf from Coltart and “tell their stories, as this contributes to justice”.

“Coltart’s book is one piece of literary work that shall go into the annals of history as one of the records that seek justice for the Gukurahundi genocide in Matabeleland,” the organisation said in a statement.

“We also would like to urge the people of Matabeleland, who experienced the Gukurahundi genocide and other human rights violations, to emulate Coltart’s brave action and start writing and publishing stories and records of what they endured.

“Without telling our stories of the human rights violations we faced, memory will be lost, the progressive world will remain ignorant of our circumstances and justice will slip on our fingers.”

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