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'Gukurahundi genocide fuelled regional illiteracy'

by Staff reporter
25 Sep 2020 at 08:08hrs | Views
SURVIVORS of the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands have blamed high il-literacy levels in the provinces on a cocktail of setbacks, chief among them the mass killings led by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade in the 1980s.

This was revealed on Tuesday at an outreach meeting organised by the Rural Communities Empowerment Trust (RuCET) in partnership with the Centre for Innovation Technology (CITE) attended by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) officials and villagers at Sobendle village, ward 8 in Lupane, Matabeleland North province.

According to the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace report, close to 20 000 people from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces were killed during the army campaign targeting dissidents.

Having witnessed death and experienced brutality at the hands of the Fifth Brigade, survivors of the atrocities feel that the government has to do more than just talking to survivors if it is to effectively heal the wounds.

Suspected of helping dissidents, innocent villagers were ruthlessly killed, with some buried alive in shallow graves by people they did not know. Others lost valuable property like furniture and livestock.

Thirty-three later, it still feels like yesterday for many victims whose wounds are still fresh.

A villager at Sobendle village, an area that experienced the terror of the army, could not hide her pain as she narrated her story to NPRC officials.

She said she was a young, innocent and bright girl who lost focus in her studies and life in general because of the traumatic experience she endured.

"We did not learn as expected because there was a lot going on. I remember during those times we had ZJC [Zimbabwe Junior Certificate]. We would be forced by soldiers to spend the night at their camps singing and be in the exam room in the morning," said the villager who only identified herself as MaMoyo.

"They say Ndebele people are not educated. Yes, we are not educated because learning was disturbed."

The effects of Gukurahundi are felt even by children whose parents were killed during the Gukurahundi era.

"We have children now who fail to sign up for food aid programmes because they do not have national IDs and birth certificates.

"When we go to registry offices, they ask us to bring death certificates of our parents. Where will we get the death certificates when our parents were buried by strangers in places we don't know?" another villager asked.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was State Security minister at the time, has refused to take responsibility for the killings.

In 2018, Mnangagwa okayed open discussion on Gukurahundi and ordered the NPRC to receive and consider complaints from the affected people.

The commission was also tasked with recommending legislation to ensure that assistance is rendered to persons affected by the conflict.

Villagers, however, questioned government's sincerity in addressing the Gukurahundi issue.

"If the government wants to talk about this issue and come up with lasting solutions, it should not just come to people and awaken memories and wounds and take no action afterwards" MaMoyo added.

Since the Gukurahundi era stalled developmental in Matabeleland, villagers appealed to the government to prioritise development in the educational, health and agricultural sectors to speed up the process of rehabilitation.

"We need tangible projects that will help us the victims of Gukurahundi to be able to provide for our children what we could not get during Gukurahundi. We don't need money," one villager said.

"We can't bring back the dead or undo the killings. However, build our schools, hospitals, dip tanks. We need development that will ensure that unlike us, our children go to school, get health services, have food and manage to take care of themselves."

RUCET co-ordinator Vumani Ndlovu urged NPRC to take issues raised by the communities seriously and facilitate healing and rehabilitating the victims.

"Discussions that took place today were not just for the sake of engaging communities. NPRC should fulfil its mandate and act on what villagers said," Ndlovu said.

Source - newsday