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Our right to remember as 22 December approaches

by Mbuso Fuzwayo
20 Dec 2018 at 10:27hrs | Views
On 22nd December 2018, Zimbabwe shall be commemorating 31 years since the 1987 signing of a pact between Robert Mugabe of ZANU PF and Joshua Nkomo of PF-ZAPU forming a 'united party' called ZANU PF. The government took advantage of that partisan arrangement to set the country's Unity Day to coincide with the signing of the agreement between the two nationalist politicians. Ordinarily, we have no reason to interfere in the mutual arrangements between the two parties of national liberation and similarly having a National Unity Day per se should normally not pose problems. Unfortunately, there are serious problems under the circumstances that we hope one day the government would care to listen.

As Ibhetshu Likazulu we have for a couple of years now, marked 22 December not as the celebratory holiday as popularized by the government of Zimbabwe but as a day of mourning deceased and surviving victims of the Gukurahundi genocide. This, we have done, not in defiance as such but as an advocacy tool to bring awareness on the shortcomings of marking the end of Gukurahundi massacres with merry and fanfare. Rather we should mourn the departed victims with solemn occasions and with somber mood in line with our African customs and traditions. If the government insists on National Unity Day celebrations, which are in order, let it choose any other date may even November 17 or any other date than 22 December. There is no worse insult to the memory of those who lost life and limb prior to the Mugabe-Nkomo signing ceremony of 1987.

We approach 22 December 2018 we much anxiety and resignation. Why? Because, once again we have to tussle, push and shove just to remember our dear loved ones who died for no other sin other than speaking a supposedly wrong language and embracing an unwanted and hated culture and history? In past, as Ibhetshu Likazulu we had to seek a court interdict to commemorate the day in the only appropriate manner it should be remembered. The state has in the past thrown in all hideous machinations to stop our remembrance. In Zimbabwe, especially in Matabeleland and Midlands, the right to remember is curtailed if not entirely at the discretion of government.

One really wonders as 22 December beckons, whether President Mnangagwa was sincere when he claimed in an interview abroad that he was keen to address past injustices including in this instance, gukurahundi? What is there in the new dispensation for the victimized communities in these regions if it is not justice? For the record, which authorities are pretty aware of, as Ibhetshu Likazulu, our mandate is partly memory work and memory preservation as an integral part of peace building. Notwithstanding our transparent work on the subject matter, we have faced hostility if not persecution from the state apparatus.

Similarly, Kezi communities and other stakeholders have been shocked with the desecration of the Bhalagwe memorial site for Gukurahundi victims. Apparently, that could be the country's largest mass grave and the largest of the Gukurahundi concentration camps. Surely, what is there to gain by trying to erase Gukurahundi memory by superimposing it with liberation war memorial? Such a callous act not only does further injustice to victimized communities but it in fact cheapens and trivializes the liberation struggle fallen heroes and heroines. There is no contesting that Maphisa like many places in the country need a shrine to commemorate the liberation legacy but to force it upon Bhalagwe memorial site for Gukurahundi victims is as insensitive as it is stupid, to say the least.

All nations, Zimbabwe included, do remember their glorious as well as their painful histories. It is necessary to do so if lasting peace and progress are to be achieved. Those like us at Ibhetshu Likazulu who have chosen this healing path to peace building have instead received hostility from a government purporting to advance the interests of all its communities and citizens. We are forced to forget what pains us most and what defines our present predicament and instead made to celebrate our very humiliation and indignity. We therefore approach 22 December 2018, pursuing the same advocacy message that the nation cannot celebrate the cold blooded massacre of unarmed and innocent men, women and children. This is part of this country's history which we must all be brave enough to face and address without further prevarication and playing with communities' feelings of deep hurt. Let us all reject selective memory of our history and strive for unity with justice.

Mbuso Fuzwayo
Ibhetshu Likazulu Secretary-General

Source - Mbuso Fuzwayo - Ibhetshu Likazulu Secretary-General

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