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Gukurahundi diaries of ucuku olwenziwa ngopasi

22 Jan 2018 at 06:53hrs | Views
File Photo: A man being beaten by 5th brigade soldiers during Gukurahundi
I remember that it was a Sunday, January 16 1983 when these murderers first arrived at Sipepa in Tsholotsho. Earlier in the afternoon we had gone down to visit the Gwayi Station just a few kilometres away from the Sipepa centre. On our return we met a friend who told us that he had heard about people being severely assaulted and shops being closed just to the north of us.

When we got near the shops about two fifth brigade soldiers emerged, shots were then fired from the direction of Siyazama Store. Instinctively, we all rushed to a small hut behind Ncube's store,  popularly known as father of Hawks (he was Cain Mathema's uncle). As we passed Ncube's store Austin suggested we buy mealie meal.  We wanted to buy a 10kg bag but Ncube suggested we get a 50kg bag instead since shops were reportedly closing and no one knew when they would open again.

In the meantime we could hear  more shots coming from the direction of the clinic and other nearby shops. We bought the 50kg bag of mealie meal and then went into the small hut and in no time we were 8 young men in the hut. It seems this is exactly what the gukurahundi soldiers had wanted by firing those shots. Before we knew it we saw two brand new AK47s guns being brandished from the doorway. They ordered all of us out and the first question they asked was 'irikupi pfuti yako?" (where is your gun?) Of the eight only two of us understood a bit of the Shona language the soldiers had used to ask while the rest couldn't utter  or understand a word of it, so even if they wanted to respond they wouldn't know how how to respond. My cousin looked at me as if to tell me not to say anything in response. We were then ordered to lie on the quarry stone behind the shop and beaten to a pulp.

After several rounds of the beatings by the two soldiers we would be ordered to stand up and the same question would be asked again and again. Upon realising that they were not making any progress as none of us answered, the question was then changed to ' Arikupi madissident?' (Where are the dissidents?) Again we didn't know what to say in answer to that question and the torture continued to a point where two of our friends could no longer stand up when ordered to. At that point one young took out a folded piece of paper and handed it to one of the torturers,  telling him that it was a letter showing he had a brother working at Wankie Colliery. On opening paper the torturer found out it was just a blank piece of paper.  I can not sufficiently describe to you what happened to the young man. Let it suffice to say that the torture went on well into the evening.

When it became very dark their attention was turned elsewhere to some other people who were fleeing the villages and they left us severely beaten.  At that point my cousin and myself gathered enough courage and fled to the train station through the dense bush. The other six were so shocked and scared because of the torturous beatings such that   they remained holed up in that hut.

Upon getting to the train station my behind hurt so bad that  I couldn't sit so I lay down on the tall grass and the mosquitoes took over the torturing from the soldiers had left off. By around 9 pm i could see that the nearby waiting room was so full that some people sat outside. As more and more people came to the train station i feared for my life, because if the soldiers were to come I wouldn't have enough strength to run away. Just then, a Nissan Patrol vehicle came and  parked near the train station, the gukurahundi soldiers had followed us. Using the vehicle's lights they began to check people's  identity documents while asking those whose identity numbers showed that they were from elsewhere what they were doing in Tsholotsho. A few young men whose only only crime was that their identity numbers showed that they came fro elsewhere were ordered into the car. Up to now nobody except the gukurahundi soldiers knows what happened to them.

While checking through the queue the soldiers did  encounter a man who told them he was also working for the government and needed to be respected. We were all shocked by his boldness. But they didn't seem to know what to do with him. In the  end they just left him. Fortunately for me they had spent too much time checking people's identity documents and the Victoria Falls  bound train arrived before they got to me. I tried to be strong as I boarded the train and walked normally  for fear of being identified again. However before the train could leave the soldiers boarded and  they took away one young man just randomly after which a young woman shed tears and whispered quietly  "Nkosi yami" (ooh my God). The young man's fate was clear to all.

The following morning after my leaving by train  one of my best friends was killed back koSipepa his crime  being that he had been a refugee in Botswana during the war of liberation and was therefore most likely to be a dissident. He was not arrested, nor did he appear before a court just summarily executed by members of the fifth brigade  Many more were to die in  the same way in the the Sipepa area .Out of the eight young men who we were tortured  with on that unforgettable day and night only my cousin and myself are still alive. The rest were killed soon thereafter by the army.

When we boarded that train to Victoria Falls me and my cousin separated and only met in Hillbrow after about 30 years, when first met we didn't know where to start talking about that day and we still have not talked about it, what we did was to embrace and shed tears. Inzima lendlela esayihambayo.

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Source - Velempini Veap Thuthani Ndlovu
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