Rhodesians must also be prosecuted at The Hague

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THE call by the American Ambassador, Charles Ray, to ignore our past must be understood within the context of the objectives of all the non-governmental organisations that his government has set up in Zimbabwe. At the moment, of particular interest are the two — the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) — that have been created to gather information and evidence for probable prosecutions of Zimbabwean leaders at The Hague for alleged human rights violations. The critical point about the ambassador’s call and to a large extent that of Jesuit priests like Fr Oskar Wermter, is the historical point to begin gathering the evidence. In the case of both the American ambassador and Fr Wermter, the starting point is 1980. It is interesting to find out how they decided 1980 as the entry point. Why 1980 anyway? There is indisputable evidence of atrocities committed by the Rhodesians as late as 1979. Why should anyone turn a blind eye to that and ask us to begin chronicling what happened from 1980? I was in the group of the first people to get to Nyadzonia after the Rhodesian massacre. I have written about that horrible experience numerous times before. I will never stop crying for that small girl, perhaps 10 or 11, whose small heart showed through the huge hole a Rhodesian machine-gun had ripped through her little chest, asking me: “Comrade, do you think I will survive?” I still consider her question the hardest anyone has ever asked me to this day. I didn’t know how to tell her that she would die. I was saved that nightmare because she died in my arms a short while later. That was one of the few occasions I cried during the war. Since then, each time I think about her, I cry. And across the open ground, around the raised ground where they held their morning assembly, hundreds lay motionless, as if they were sleeping. A few still groaned before they breathed their last. A Rhodesian soldier whose friend, Peter MacNealy, was involved in the operation would later write: “I spoke to him shortly after returning from the operation and he said: Dennis, it was so easy to kill; I kept firing on and on until I got tired. Then I sat and watched. I got sick of it.” The official death toll at Nyadzonia was 1 500. I was there and I helped to bury those people. The commander of the Selous Scouts, the unit whose members carried out the operation, Col Reid Daly, would later recall: “It was like a scythe going through a cornfield.” The American ambassador is not only urging us to forget those horrible memories, he is saying the people who committed those atrocities should be forgiven. The right and consideration to forgive must be left to us, the victims, and not to some pontificating outsiders. And Nyadzonia was just one incident. There were other massacres at refugee camps in Zambia and Mozambique. The Rhodesians who perpetrated those massacres are still living scattered around the globe with some as close as South Africa. Who says we have forgiven and forgotten their crimes? Father Wermter, Charles Ray, who? It’s difficult to forgive them, but we will certainly not forget. What crimes warrant a person to be taken to the International Criminal Court of Justice anyway? We are told it is something that is considered a crime against humanity. If there is an attempt to elevate the discomfort caused by Murambatsvina to the level of a crime against humanity and ignore the butchering of thousands of unarmed people including children at Nyadzonia and many other places inside and outside the country by the Rhodesians, then there is something inherently wrong with the consideration and verification process to send someone to The Hague. Is it because the Rhodesians are white and we are black? There are some among us who urge us not to think along colour lines. They say it is progressive to operate beyond the petty barriers created by the colour of one’s skin. We agree with it, but with a pinch of salt because if the world operated on the idealism of colour-blindness, why do people like Fr Wermter manipulate their gullible congregations to remember only those crimes and human rights violations allegedly committed after 1980 and conveniently sweep under the carpet those atrocities committed by the Rhodesians? Of course, he is doing it because they are his fellow whites. The belief that the world has moved beyond racism, because Barack Obama has been elected to become the first black president of the USA, is an illusion. It is people like the American Ambassador, Charles Ray, who believe such illusions. And because of such illusions, the ambassador does not want to be reminded that once upon a time, they were slaves. It must not escape any thinking person’s mind that our present dilemma and circumstances are intrinsically linked with the situation and people who controlled us before 1980. The land issue that we are currently embroiled in cannot be separated from those people who owned the land before 1980 because they are still controlling the land NOW. Hundreds of Rhodesians out there in Australia and Britain and Canada and South Africa are holding on to title deeds of pieces of land issued by the colonial government in the hope that they will one day return. The on-going indigenisation and empowerment programme cannot be separated from those who controlled our economy before 1980 because they are still controlling it NOW. So, how can anyone tell us to forget them when they are part of our problem? How can their case be ignored when we hear there are mischievous preparations to take some of us to The Hague for the same problem? Ian Smith died a free man a few years ago, may his soul rest in peace, yet he murdered thousands of blacks during his 15-year reign of terror. If anyone wants to prosecute anybody at The Hague, the Rhodesians cannot be left out.

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