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How can Mthwakazi let bygones be bygones?

28 Nov 2017 at 23:09hrs | Views
Annitha Ndlovu
A new era: a new president
Yet Mthwakazi seems to be back to square one so soon after the brief euphoria ushered by the timely departure of the Mugabes. Mthwakazi is the region that covers the whole of Matabeland and some parts of Midlands in today Zimbabwe. This is the same region that bore the brunt of the brutality of the 1980s Genocide aptly known as the Gukurahundi massacres which claimed the lives of many a Matabele and/or Zapu member.

We would like to state it categorically that, we the victims of Gukurahundi, do not welcome the new president of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson D Mnangagwa. Appointing Mnangagwa as president is tantamount to replacing one dictator with another. In fact E.D Mnangagwa is worse than Mugabe. While Mugabe issued the order, Mnangagwa was the one who executed the massacres. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the Gukurahundi massacres and the campaign of torture, murder, and repression that claimed the lives of more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands.  Their only crime was a mere suspicion of being supporters of Zapu. As things stand currently, his presidency is tainted and acts as a direct insult to the living victims of Gukurahundi and to the memory of those who lost their lives (May their souls rest in peace).
speak as a victim of Gukurahundi myself, having lost relatives and family members who were buried alive. So how can we be expected to let bygones be bygones?

How can we get closure?

We demand answers. Someone should take responsibility for the Gukurahundi atrocities. Mugabe or Mnagangwa and their western handlers should come clean on this thorny issue. There is documentary evidence of their involvement. The shallow mass graves are testimony to this. Gukurahundi happened and cannot be wished away. The new president and his cabinet could start the ball rolling by apologising. A simple sorry could be the starting point. Sorry for unnecessary loss of life. Sorry for destroying property and the livelihood of the affected people. Sorry for dividing the nation on tribal lines. Yet sorry on its own is not enough. We need more than just lip service.

Presidential pardon
Ex-president RG Mugabe has been pardoned with a commitment not to prosecute him and his lieutenants of any crimes committed in his name. We demand that such immunity from prosecution be withdrawn as RG Mugabe is no longer a sitting president. For the new president to take unilateral action in pardoning Mugabe is questionable and sets a wrong precedent. This suggests that the current president is indirectly protecting himself from future prosecution for any commissions or omissions during his tenure in office. This alone is ominous as it hints at repeat Gukurahundi or similar brutalities in the near future considering that national elections are only about seven months away. Is this presidential pardon constitutional?

Restorative Justice
We are still hopeful that a truth and reconciliation commission of enquiry can be set up to bring victim and perpetrator to acknowledge the past, address the present needs and to move on to face the future with true healing. This could be run along to the enquiry that took place in the Republic South Africa. This will go a long way to bring closure to this sad chapter in our country and Mthwakazi in particular. This is a challenge to the new president. Forgiving is still possible but forgetting is neither necessary nor desirable.

Financial compensation should be the next priority. This can be viewed in two ways-personal and regional. All known victims should be compensated financially for their losses. The victims and their surviving nearest relatives deserve this belated gesture. While the financial packages will not bring back the departed souls or recover the broken bones of the living, it can help the victims rebuild their lives. The bill will be high and so it should be! This would be a lesson to future governments that there is no price for loss of life as any compensation will never truly approximate to the value of lives lost in the manner of a genocide.

In addition, the Mthwakazi region deserves to be compensated as a region. Again resources would be used to rebuild the infrastructure and institutions of this once mighty region. Schools, hospitals, industries, historical and cultural sites come to mind. A designated regional museum in honour of the victims could be considered. The biggest gift would be sponsoring the construction of an uMthwakazi Regional Parliament. Such a parliament would help decentralise policy making and policy implementation to local structures. This would usher in the much desired self-determination in this marginalised region. Unlike, other regions, there is a huge appetite for devolution of power of this kind in the Mthwakazi region. Could the by-product of a Mnangagwa presidency yield such a democratic institution?

Criminal Justice
While we are pleased to note that in the twinkle of an eye, the new president and his advisors have embarked on rounding up the criminal elements formerly associated with the deposed tyrant, we expect more. Merely apprehending petty kleptomaniacs is not enough. This should be extended to the murderous butchers of our people, Mugabe included. The ring leaders and military men responsible for Gukurahundi and other similar atrocities post-the Gukurahundi era ‘must be hung by the neck till they die'. Not literary but hopefully, dear reader, you get the drift.

The bones of our loved ones still lie in shallow and unmarked graves. We would like to be allowed to mourn them openly and to rebury their remains in places of our choice according to our traditional values and customs. Let us decide whether we can bury them in family graveyards or in community cemeteries designated for such purposes. These are our fallen heroes who, having survived Smith's war, fell at the sword of their black bothers. We want to be allowed to erect shrines where we can gather to pay our homage as a people. Just like the holocaust victims. Lest we forget.

A scattered people
The survivors scattered to lands unknown. Some are still in hiding, unsure whether it is now safe to return home at long last. A big number remain undocumented and stateless as they could not obtain basic documents such as birth certificates let alone passports. Some are lost to our nation forever- in neighbouring countries and abroad. Their distinct accents being one of the few tell-tale signs of who they once were. Eyes downcast for a long time but they are now beginning to look up in the hope of a new Zimbabwe.  Through its actions this new dispensation could lure them back as we herald a new beginning.


This is a plea to His Excellence Mnangagwa, the Chiwengas, the Shiris and the Mutsvangas to at least talk about this issue in an open, transparent and constructive manner. As the victims, we bear the physical scars, frightful memories and the emotional damage of what happened three decades ago.
Talk to us, the survivors. We survived against all odds and we are ready for meaningful dialogue with the new government.

Maybe, perhaps, maybe we may begin to contemplate letting bygones be bygones.

Annitha Ndlovu is a political activist and survivor of the Gukurahundi genocide who is now based in the UK. She can be contacted at

Source - Annitha Ndlovu
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