Zimbabwe’s vice president says the government will rebury victims of a 1980s military crackdown in the west of the country and help descendants to obtain identity documents, reports said Wednesday.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko said the programme would include identifying mass graves and erecting tombstones in honour of the dead.
At the launch of the programme in Tsholotsho, western Zimbabwe, Mphoko said thousands of people had lost their identity documents when their homes were destroyed in the disturbances that rocked the region more than three decades ago.
“When all this happened here in Tsholotsho, Lupane, Matabeleland South and Midlands, a lot of people were affected and left without national documents,” said Mphoko, who is also the minister of healing and reconciliation.
“They could not obtain death certificates for their parents. Now they can’t claim their parents’ benefits because it is not known whose children they are since they do not have any documents to prove their identity,” Mphoko said, in comments carried by the state ZBC broadcaster.
Rights groups say up to 20 000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the military operation known as Gukurahundi against ruling party political opponents in the early 1980s. It was carried out by a Zimbabwean army unit trained by North Korean commanders. Mugabe has not apologised or accepted responsibility for Gukurahundi, only once referring to it in public as “a moment of madness”.
Mphoko reiterated that Mugabe was blameless.
“The disturbances that happened after independence were not because of President Mugabe’s problem, it was a Western conspiracy to destabilise the newly-independent state of Zimbabwe,” he said in comments carried by the official Herald newspaper.
Mphoko said the government couldn’t afford to compensate victims and their families, but decent burials and government registration would be provided.
“We’ll not talk about compensation for now because it requires a lot of money,” he said.
“We want to make sure those who don’t have identity particulars have them and make sure that the bones that are lying around are given decent burials.”