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Gukurahundi, disputed polls' frustrations manifest in Barbourfields violence

by Staff reporter
17 Sep 2023 at 07:57hrs | Views
Highlanders' supporters recently shared a poignant story, perhaps a release of pent-up emotions. Allan Bhasvi, tasked with overseeing a much-anticipated match between old rivals Dynamos and Highlanders, inadvertently ignited a wave of feelings.

The regions of Bulawayo and Matebeleland have carried the heavy emotional burden of historical upheavals that followed Zimbabwe's Independence. The wounds of Gukurahundi, a tragedy that saw the North Korean-trained fifth brigade allegedly kill an estimated 20,000 people, remain open and divisive. Civic groups argue that the government has failed to address this dark chapter adequately, and it continues to cast a shadow.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, upon taking office as president after Robert Mugabe's tenure, pledged to address the Gukurahundi massacres and initiated a dialogue led by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). Progress in bringing closure to the victims and holding perpetrators accountable has been slow, leaving the people of Bulawayo and Matebeleland feeling marginalized.

Desiring healing and recognition, Highlanders' supporters, primarily from these regions, have channeled their frustrations through football as a form of expression. Barbourfields Stadium, particularly the Soweto end, becomes a platform for them.

Frustration reached a boiling point in Bulawayo when Highlanders' supporters disrupted their match against Dynamos prematurely. Their chants and songs carried political undertones and expressed their desire for recognition. Highlanders' fans criticized the government's conduct, particularly regarding the disputed elections. They called out "Zanu rigs" and directed messages to figures like Mnangagwa and Chiwenga.

Allan Bhasvi's decision to ignore Highlanders' plea for a free-kick seemed to push their supporters over the edge. They began denouncing Emmerson Mnangagwa's presidency as police moved to quell the unrest.

During the August elections, Bulawayo voted against Zanu-PF, with the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) sweeping the vote.

Lazarus Sauti, a peace and conflict resolution expert, noted that these incidents reflect Zanu-PF's failure to address the Gukurahundi issue. He emphasized that the government needs to acknowledge the past and express regret for the Gukurahundi massacre to facilitate reconciliation.

In response to these events, Farai Jere, the Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman and Zanu-PF Member of Parliament (MP), condemned the political undertones and reaffirmed the PSL's apolitical stance. He called on clubs to educate their supporters about football rules and regulations, warning that pitch invasion and crowd trouble would result in severe penalties for clubs.

Source - NewZimbabwe