truth can sometimes be a bloody harlot. It is usable by whoever has a chance at any moment of the day or night, in history to achieve their ends.
Truth can also be that long to arrive like a first-born of an unlucky couple who comes when the patient parents have tired of waiting.
Yet truth can also be a liberator for those who wait. He said it that witty Florentine diplomat, Machiavelli: “Time is the father of the truth.”
In an agonising birth, from many years of political harlotry and painful gestation, a bleeding truth is being born: The perpetrators of the Gukurahundi genocide are being exposed, not by any effort of the victims but by the passage of time. That’s why they say only time will tell; truth will be established at some point.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, air marshal Perence Shiri, commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Constantine Chiwenga and President Robert Mugabe, together with many others whose days of cover are over can no longer eat, drink, and sleep in the pretence that they are innocent beings when they have blood in their hands — no matter what their hired guns would say.
In small-scale adultery as it is in such crimes against humanity as the Gukurahundi genocide, when the truth is confessed and disclosed by the suspected, it becomes important information and liberating knowledge that can be used not just in justice at law, but most importantly in finding forgiveness, healing and durable peace among nationals.
But when the truth gets uncovered, exposed and the perpetrators of serious crimes are unmasked, truth loses its friendly face; it becomes bleeding evidence of criminality and ungodliness that deserves the vengeance of justice and that of time.
This commonplace wisdom must gain new importance and currency to the regime in Harare that must urgently see that world history; international events and time are ready to empty their bowels in a manner that is bound to offend the heavens themselves.
Most scary at this moment is that those who were friends of the regime at the time of Gukurahundi, who are privy to the grisly details of the atrocities, are in a strong way no longer friends of the regime, and true to their sly tradition, some powerful ones among them are willing to “give the dog a bad name” and literally “hang him.”
Like the unhappy floods in Lupane and Lusulu that continue to wash open some mass-graves and float human skeletons in the footpaths of Matabeleland, cables throughout the globe will increasingly offload evidence of the crimes during Gukurahundi, nailing the perpetrators.
I write today not in excitement about the recently declassified Australian cables that have revealed, in my view, old truths. More bleeding evidence is soon to issue.
I write even, not with a loud “I told you so” scream since I have written previously and severally to observe that Gukurahundi denialism is foolish. I write as a fellow traveller among journalists and academics of Zimbabwe and the world that wish for an understanding, and finally a satisfactory and healing closure to that genocidal chapter of Zimbabwean history, Gukurahundi.
Let me say now, not just the Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces, but the entrenched culture of political violence in Zimbabwe that even makes some in the ruling party itself, some who are named among perpetrators, and those that have recently been ejected, that thank their creator when they wake up alive to witness the rise of another sun each day.
There is fear and uncertainty in the world, in Zimbabwe particularly.
A word on Phelekezela Mphoko
Among many, I have raised alarm at the historical creativity, revisionism and maybe the political gamesmanship of the second Vice-President of Zimbabwe Phelekezela Mphoko. His hair-brained strategy has not only been self-serving but also extremely naive.
It’s about clobbering former Zipra supremo Dumiso Dabengwa and currying Mugabe’s favour. To praise Mugabe so loudly, to try and cleanse him of Gukurahundi blood with more determination than Mugabe himself has ever tried, or any of his defenders, and then project himself as the last man standing from Zapu and the only option.
In this way, Mphoko would, in his rather simplistic calculation, then smuggle himself through the narrow gates of succession to power, and live to sit on, if not next to, the throne of skulls.
It has been a good run for the intelligence man, the army man and the fine diplomat who finally got rewarded for a long record of service to the Mugabe regime. But the game is up, if he has not been told already, he is going to be told soon, to shut his big mouth and stop insulting victims of crimes against humanity.
That he ultimately seeks to build himself at the expense of Gukurahundi victims, at the expense of Zapu and Dabengwa and ultimately at the expense of his present promoters — in fact on top of the graves of innocent people — has not escaped the eye of the guilty ones who run when no one pursues, they are quick to see when one wants to pursue in whatever guise.
By the nature of his deceitful shenanigans and posturing, this man has tried to bribe history itself, to erase even and to silence stubborn truths using doses of propaganda and a body of falsehoods. Comrade Mphoko, it seems you don’t get it; you are lagging in the race, the people you see coming from behind you are leading you, not the other way round.
Healing, forgiveness and reconciliation in Zimbabwe will be occasioned not by smart political players with the seven eyes of the KGB, or crocodiles with the hardihood of a bullet-swallowing Mafioso.
Humility, and the knowledge that one is a hero but not the only hero will be the beginning of political wisdom in Zimbabwe as it has been elsewhere. That curious sitting arrangement at the politburo should have long taught Mphoko that his importance is being the least important in this august food chain.
The line in Zanu PF is very thin between being at the high table and having the menu in the present political times.
The poverty of the truth
Away from Mphoko, he is enough of a victim of his own delusions and entanglement at the present moment. I have observed excitement and at a certain level understandable angry celebration among those who believe that the truth about the Gukurahundi is a solution to the lingering conflict, lingering because wounds of Gukurahundi in their social, political and cultural shape still bleed.
But in terms of conflict resolution and healing of bleeding historical wounds, the truth can be a minimal ingredient if not a potentially dangerous flammable substance. Crudely, the truth can propel victims of a genocide to genocidal rage and even revenge, and attacks on the perpetrators.
The truth can also scare perpetrators of genocide into a genocidal “flight or fight mode.” The truth can also be the proverbial scar that the killer worm from outside uses to enter that fat body of flesh that it has always fancied to chew to the bones.
Enemies of Zimbabwe and those of Africa can, in this case, use the surfacing truth on Gukurahundi to come for the remaining scraps of what the imperialists themselves once called “the jewel of Africa.”
Libyans can teach us more
The Libyans can teach us more on this. The removal of its former leader Muammar Gaddafi and his regime brought in faceless monsters. On its own, the truth is not an asset. How it is used is where the panacea lies.
The case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation process confirms just how politically manipulable the truth can be.
The truth that was confessed by a few selected perpetrators and witnessed by a few selected victims was used to set the system of apartheid free, and let the beneficiaries of apartheid keep the economy in the name of miraculous reconciliation.
Mahmood Mamdani and others in the African academy have called this a historic fraud.
The problem of apartheid was supposed to be dealt with as a system, its economic, social and political damage repaired. But in their case, South Africans publicly grilled some notorious individual offenders and displayed a few screaming victims and then announced the arrival of a “rainbow nation” and the “rainbow people of God” as Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu opined.
Twenty something years after the event of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), many ordinary South Africans are realising that in actuality, apartheid escaped its trial or was acquitted through the back door, that it was all along hiding among them, using the interesting nickname of reconciliation, continuing to feed its perpetrators and to punish its victims, and recently setting them up to slaughter each other under the alibi of xenophobia and afrophobia.
Any conflict resolution mechanism that involves politicians, in the South African case, the liberation movement and the apartheid regime, is bound to be infected by power politics, and spirited opportunism. At the end of the day politicians were in a hurry to achieve a settlement and get into the business of power, the trappings of office and money.
There was no time to dig up the system and to uproot it forever. At the end of the day, the storied TRC process collapsed into a public opinion management spectacle and ritual that gave the status quo a new name, and that used the truth to defend lies.
In South Africa, the truth was manipulated, corrupted and infected with toxic politics to exonerate criminals who perpetrated crimes against humanity and to secure an evil system of systematic exploitation and inequality beyond what was supposed to be decolonisation and liberation for the long suffering African people.
Even ubuntu, in the Frantz Fanonian sense, was emptied of its content. The character of ubuntu was changed, its respect for justice and for punishment of offenders was buried under Christian hyms and prayers, it was reloaded with the wisdom of turning the other cheek, of forgiving unrepentant racist settlers and sinners, and Tutu was the best person to officiate in this funeral of liberation and the rebirth of coloniality.
The truth can set you free as much as it can secure your captivity.
What are we to do about the explosively emerging truth in Zimbabwe regarding the simmering Gukurahundi genocide?
The trial of the truth in Zimbabwe
In case I have given the sad impression that perpetrators of genocide, criminals against humanity must be ignored, and in case I have given the unfortunate illusion that justice for victims is not important, let me elaborate.
Those who perpetrated genocide in Zimbabwe, in my view must answer to the charges legally and politically, especially that they have not come forward to confess but are being unmasked by history and the fullness of time. The victims of Gukurahundi and their sympathisers must appeal to whatever jurisdiction is available to them under the sun. Justice can be extracted from these offenders, however, loud the denialism and the bravado.
Importantly, what must not be missed is the systemic nature of the genocide. By systemic I mean that it was indeed an event of political and criminal killings of some by others.
The killers are being named. Behind the names and faces of the killers and the killed is a system, a kind of politics and an approach to life. By systemic I also mean that after the named perpetrators have been dealt with in whatever way, and after the named victims have been addressed in whatever way, Gukurahundi will remain with us as a system just as the hatred and violence of apartheid has remained to carry out frequent violent attacks on Africans in South Africa.
Many Zimbabweans, especially politicians, journalists, academics and activists will agree that there is still a lot of “Gukurahundi” venom in our hearts and minds, even in the opposition political ranks.
That gifted son of Uganda, Mamdani, had advice for South Africa. He noted that what was needed was a political solution, where the post-apartheid state would take over the guilt of the perpetrators and also the injuries of the victims. The state would then graduate both perpetrators and victims into “survivors” of a painful history, and fresh citizens of a new country and a new imagination.
This did not happen. In Zimbabwe it is not likely to happen since the state itself is playing dodgy and unwilling to take responsibility since some of its key managers are the accused, and they don’t seem to have the historical courage and humility to wash themselves clean in public.
The other option, if the will was present, was to take the emerging truth and turn it not into evidence of crimes and exhibits on the criminals, but into knowledge of history, where both victims and their victimisers can become willing students of history.
Then and only then, consensus could be reached on how these two categories of Zimbabweans, former victims and former perpetrators, can breathe the same air and share the same country and salute the same flag and sing the same national anthem until the history of the future.
For now, the proverbial ball is in the court of the perpetrators who are the rulers of the state in Zimbabwe, tragic history has happened, if care is not taken, those who know have told us, it might repeat itself as a spectacular farce.
Dinizulu Mbiko Macaphulana is a Pretoria-based Zimbabwean political scientist and semiotician. email: firstname.lastname@example.org