HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday threatened to “shorten” the lives of individuals advocating for a separate state in south western Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa maintained that Zimbabwe would remain a unitary state.
Speaking at a campaign rally in Chitungwiza, the Zanu PF leader singled out the small Mthwakazi Republic Party which campaigns on a platform of a breakaway state covering parts of the Midlands and all of the Matabeleland provinces.
“There’re some who, after eating beans, they overestimate their influence, groups like Mthwakazi. They want Zimbabwe to be divided in the middle, and the other part becomes Mthwakazi Republic,” Mnangagwa said.
“They will talk and talk until they’re old and dead and Zimbabwe will be here still as a unitary state. No-one will divide this country.”
Mnangagwa’s address took a dark turn, however, when he appeared to threaten the activists with death.
He thundered: “They must be quiet and work with the government of the day and thrive because if they keep doing what they’re doing, there’s no country in this world that will support secession. The United Nations recognises us as we are, no-one will divide us into small states.
“You’ll be looking to shorten your life. You must walk a path that prolongs your life.”
Parallels will be drawn in the tone of Mnangagwa’s comments with his threats in the 1980s against “dissidents” in south western Zimbabwe and the Midlands.
Then the intelligence minister, Mnangagwa described the dissidents – a small group of soldiers that refused to demobilise after the 1970s bush war of independence – as “cockroaches.” The 5th Brigade army unit deployed to hunt them down was “DDT”, he said, referring to a deadly pesticide used to exterminate vermin.
He said at one rally in 1983: “Blessed are they who will follow the path of the government laws, for their days on Earth will be increased. But woe unto those who will choose the path of collaboration with dissidents for we will certainly shorten their stay on earth.”
By the end of its campaign from 1983 to 1987, the 5th Brigade had killed over 20,000 minority Ndebeles, mostly in rural Matabeleland. Mnangagwa has never been able to shake off accusations by rights groups that he incited the genocide.
The Mthwakazi Republic Party is a fringe organisation operating largely in Bulawayo and the two Matabeleland provinces where it has participated in elections and won a very small share of votes.
It traces its demands to the drawing of boundaries of present day Zimbabwe by colonialists who found various competing kingdoms controlling different parts of the land before lumping them together and naming the new country Southern Rhodesia.
The Ndebele kingdom of Mthwakazi – founded by King Mzilikazi’s people who migrated from KwaZulu Natal in South Africa – was found in south-western Zimbabwe.