Ngwena’s crocodile tears

Last year, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa was reportedly close to tears when he spoke about how he narrowly escaped hanging by the Rhodesian government. On that occasion he was speaking against the death penalty.

Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa
Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa

Last week, Mnangagwa reiterated the call to abolish capital punishment. He even refused to sign the paperwork that would have sanctioned the execution of 97 death row inmates. What a kind and sensitive man he is. Except history knows Mnangangwa – known as ‘Ngwena’ – was the minister of state security during the Gukurahundi massacres in which over 20,000 civilians were slaughtered and reportedly 60,000 women were raped by the Korean trained 5th Brigade.

Their only crime was not knowing the whereabouts of ‘the dissidents.’ Many who only knew about growing sorghum and rearing cattle were kraaled into grass huts and burned alive. When humans flesh burns, the fat crackles. The scent of burning hair and nails is detectable. The police, army and the CIO, headed by Mnangangwa, who murdered unarmed civilians would have had to be heartless to be able to do it again and again over a period of 10 years. If those that executed the kill order are heartless, those that gave the instruction must have been men of stone. Indeed they were, because in 2011 Mnangagwa dismissed Gukurahundi as a ‘non-event’.

Between 1988 and 2000, Emmerson Mnangagwa was minister of justice, happily signing off on papers that sent condemned prisoners to the gallows. He was no doubt a part of the constitution making process. He is a lawyer by profession and would have at some stage been involved in the drafting of the constitution, which upholds the death penalty. Mnangagwa is not really concerned about the barbarism of killing, as his record sufficiently illustrates.

There is no record of Mnangagwa being against the death penalty until recently. What he is concerned about now is winning the hearts of the electorate, as he eyes the presidency. Zanu (PF) has a reputation for the abuse of human rights – Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina, the 2008 election violence, the random and unwarranted searches of civilians at police roadblocks, the arrest and torture of journalists. Mnangagwa is no doubt thinking he impressed the people at Amnesty International through his support for the abolition of the death penalty.

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