By Basildon Peta

Harare - A judicial report detailing atrocities committed by the Zimbabwe National Army in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions during Zimbabwe's civil war in the early 1980s cannot be found, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said this week.

The army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade allegedly killed over 20 000 civilians as it cracked down on armed bandits who were trying to topple President Robert Mugabe.

After an international outcry, Mugabe appointed a commission of inquiry, headed by former chief justice Enoch Dumbutshena, in early 1984 to investigate the atrocities. Mugabe has ever since refused to make the results public.

He has also refused to make public the report of another inquiry which he commissioned later in 1984. The second inquiry was chaired by prominent lawyer Simplicius Chihambakwe.

Two human rights groups, the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), recently filed an application in the supreme court seeking an order compelling Mugabe to make public the two reports.

The court gave Mugabe 20 days to respond after it ruled that the president could be sued in his official capacity. But Mnangagwa, in affidavits filed with the court on behalf of Mugabe, said the Dumbutshena report could no longer be located.

The affidavits were filed this week to beat the 20-day deadline set by the court for Mugabe to oppose, if he so wished, the application by the LRF and ZLHR.

Mugabe has been under pressure from human rights groups and churches, which say the army systematically slaughtered civilians to scare the people of the two provinces, then seen as the power base of the late opposition leader Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe has already offered a muted apology to the victims of the military campaign, promising those still alive unspecified state aid.

  • Opposition to Mugabe's rule grew on Thursday when the ZLHR alleged he heads a dictatorship and said he should resign. The challenge came three days after the biggest opposition alliance, the National Constitutional Assembly, urged Mugabe to resign over the occupation of white-owned farmland by squatters.

    The lawyers described the government's failure to restore law and order in farming districts across the country as a political ploy that was destroying "the last vestiges of democracy in our country". - Sapa-AP