Zim VP mulling legal action against ex-minister over 'massacre' claims

2016-03-22 16:24

Harare - Zimbabwean presidential hopeful Emmerson Mnangagwa would be "poorly advised" to sue over claims in a recently-published book that he may have helped incite a notorious massacre, the book's author David Coltart said Tuesday.

Lawyers for Mnangagwa were "currently perusing" former education minister Coltart's book before deciding what action to take, a statement from the vice president's office said.

Mnangagwa has taken exception to a local newspaper review of Coltart's The Struggle Continues, in which Mnangagwa is reported to have told a rally not far from the southern Lupane district in the early 1980s that the government "had the option of burning down all villages infested with dissidents".

Rights groups say up to 20 000 Zimbabweans were killed during the 1983-1987 Gukurahundi massacres after President Robert Mugabe sent his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade into Matabeleland to put down a rebellion.

The statement from Mnangagwa's office reads: "At no stage during the 1980s did [Mnangagwa] address a rally in Lupane, nor did he at any other venue utter those words."

But Zimbabweans on social media have pointed out that Coltart is drawing from news reports from the time.

Chronicle editor Mduduzi Mathuthu posted photographs of articles published in the newspaper in 1983 in which Mnangagwa reportedly compared dissidents to "cockroaches and bugs".

Coltart, a lawyer who served as education minister during the 2009-2013 coalition government, tweeted: "ED [Emmerson Dambudzo] will be very poorly advised to sue."

Mnangagwa leads one of two factions fighting for power in Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party. The other faction - which appears to be on the up at the moment - is led by the G40, a group of younger politicians who may have the backing of Grace Mugabe.

Mugabe has called the Gukurahundi killings a "moment of madness".

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