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House of Commons condemns the shooting of Air Rhodesia Viscount by Zipra forces

by Staff reporter
11 Feb 2013 at 05:15hrs | Views
ZIMBABWEANS have expressed outrage at the move by the British Parliament to move a motion condemning the shooting of Air Rhodesia Viscount RH827 by Zipra forces during the liberation struggle which the House of Commons classified as an atrocity that should be commemorated.

The motion was moved by Labour MP Kate Hoey who argued that civilians in the flight were killed and there was need to give February 12, the day the plane was shot down, official recognition.

The motion reads: "That this House notes that 12 February 2013 will mark the 34th anniversary of the shooting down of Air Rhodesia Viscount Flight RH827 (the Umniati) by members of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) in the former Rhodesia resulting in the death of all on board; further notes that this was the second such shooting down of civilian airliners by Zipra and followed the shooting down of Air Rhodesia Flight RH825 (the Hunyani) by the same means on 3 September 1978; further notes that the 107 victims comprised civilian men, women and children, some of whom survived the crash of the Hunyani and were subsequently murdered on the ground by bayoneting and shooting; further notes that the victims included citizens from Switzerland, Scotland, Belgium, New Zealand, the UK and South Africa; recalls that the failure to officially condemn these atrocities, as articulated in the sermon by the late Very Reverend John da Costa known as The Deafening Silence, was an act of moral cowardice and deplores such failure; and commends the work done by Keith Nell and his Viscount Down Team to ensure that these atrocities are not forgotten and their ongoing efforts to alleviate suffering amongst the pensioner community of Zimbabwe."

Air Rhodesia Flight 827, flown that day by Umniati, was a scheduled flight between Kariba and Salisbury (Harare) that was shot down on February 12, 1979 by Zipra forces soon after take-off in Kariba.

Zipra forces believed Rhodesian Army commander General Peter Walls was in the Viscount plane, but he had changed planes.

None of the 59 passengers or crew survived.

Analysts yesterday described the move as a "racial commemoration" as thousands of Zimbabweans lost their lives during the liberation struggle.

Former Zipra commander Dr Dumiso Dabengwa described the motion as a provocation that would "open old wounds".

"It shows what the new leadership of the Labour Party is like," he said.

"When it happened it was war time and they did not move a motion. What is it that makes them move the motion this time?

"We are very curious and I think they should come in the open and say exactly what they want."

Dr Dabengwa said the motion means that the amnesty suggested by the British during the Lancaster House constitutional negotiations was "useless".

"They suggested the issue of amnesty and it was taken on board. The amnesty was to make no one responsible for offences committed during war time," he said.

"For them it was a way of protecting Ian Smith and company from the atrocities they committed. Since they have moved a motion, shall we go back and mention numerous occasions that they massacred our people?"

Dr Dabengwa said they were ready to take the British head on with regards to the issue.

"They want to start a condemnation war and we will take them on because we have the evidence where British racists and special forces did horrible things to us," he said.

"Let them start the issue and we will not keep quiet."

Political analyst and Midlands State University media lecturer Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri dismissed the proposed commemoration as racial.

"They are remembering their kith and kin, but what about our children who were massacred in Tembwe, Chimoio, Nyadzonia and other areas?

"This is a racial commemoration because they are giving one side of the story yet the liberation struggle had a lot of things.

"We value human life, but we remind them that as they do their commemorations, they should also note that theirs was a small number as compared to ours."

Diplomat and political analyst Christopher Mutsvangwa said liberation struggle wounds should not be re-opened.

"They committed atrocities which were worse and condemned by the United Nations, but now they are talking of one or two incidents which happened during a war time," he said.

"This is a provocation and it means they only regard the death of white people alone during the struggle.

"There is no mention of what happened to our sons and daughters in and outside the country. The British are not the only victims of war."

Mutsvangwa said the International Court of Justice should be looking for former Rhodesian killers.

"We should have tracked them and make them accountable just as the Nazis were tracked down by the Jews," he said.

"Zimbabwe and other countries in the region should condemn this move because we all lost thousands of people."

Another political analyst who preferred anonymity said the British and Americans were still killing innocent civilians in some countries.

"Look at what is happening in countries like Syria, the Osama bin Laden issue among others where they killed thousands of innocent souls in search of one man," he said.

Dr Joseph Kurebwa of the University of Zimbabwe's political science and administration department said the flight that was attacked was a legitimate military target.

"The Zipra forces argued, which the Rhodesian forces countered, that they were looking for General Walls," he said.

"No one supports the killing of civilians, but we should look at the time this happened and Zipra were fighting a settler regime which by and large constituted the Rhodesians."

Thousands of Zimbabweans, mainly defenceless refugees, were massacred at camps in Mozambique, Zambia and Angola by Rhodesian elite forces during the liberation struggle.

The British have not condemned such massacres that attracted the attention of the United Nations.

Source - TH