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Life though the eyes of a Gukurahundi survivor

20 Jun 2021 at 14:58hrs | Views
This week I was back in the village after a week away in the city and as usual to get the best of the news of what happened in my absence the first point of call is the home of my uncle, apart from being my neighbor, he is a brother to my mother, he is very close to me, more of a friend than an elder, no discussion and ideas are out of bounds, he is a great guy, my uncle.

At the first glance he tells me to deal with my weight, I hit back and say its only been a week how much could I have gained, quickly am challenged to hundred metres sprinting challenge, a job I think isn't much of a hurdle, and at his age I guess,  I will just do it effortlessly.

In no time we running towards my home,  I a bit outpace him, to his luck and misfortune to me, in the blink of an eye, my huge body hits the ground I fall mercilessly, I scratch my knees and elbows., as he lifts me up laughing yet still caring, he holds my  hand and look at the blood on knees, he takes a deep breath and remarks, " lucky this is not the 1980's with an injury on your knee, you will be accused of being a dissident  trainee and shot at point blankā€¦.".

To this hour I still don't understand how that comment came out of his mouth, but at that moment a moment of silence engulfed us, I don't know if that was his way of finding out how the work of the erection of our plaques that we have doing for some time was going or it was genuine reminder of the painful moments that he and the community  passed through during  the Gukurahundi period, this was a five years of systematic killings of the Ndebele people in Matebeleland and the Midlands by the government of Zimbabwe, a painful period of torture rape, displacements and  forced disappearances, genocide by any definition.   

My uncle is part of the ten year olds or less who witnessed heinous activities by the government on its citizens, the generation that saw rape of their sisters, mothers and aunts in set up pungwes, who saw their people being buried in shallow graves while they were asked to sing songs praising Robert Mugabe and Zanu pf, he belongs to the generation that witnessed arbitrary beatings for belonging to Ndebele tribe, he is part of the generation that suffered kwashiorkor and other diseases of mulnutrion deliberately caused by the government on its people.

He told me later that night around the fire how he remains haunted by the sights of his sister (my mother) who was brought home crying swollen and blood flowing on her face, from the shops after being beaten by the fifth Brigade in January 1985, (she was five months pregnant and I was in her womb), his brothers had fled to the city as they feared for their lives and rightly so.  You can tell the pain on his eyes, tears flow down our eyes, the light is getting dim, but I could see his tears though.

In a moment I want to go back to 1983, January. My mother was a young lady and my father also a very young men a promising footballer, he was not politician so was my mother. I was just a five months old fetus, four months before I could see the world, I wasn't a politician too. I ask myself aloud, why did the government of Robert Mugabe want to kill me, in my mother's womb before I wasn't even born, how was I even an enemy before I had come out to see the world and make a choice, why was my existence criminalized even before birth to an extent that there was an attempt to kill both me and my mother?. Neither I nor my uncle has the answers to that, only the perpetrator has.

Robert Mugabe is dead, and the search for my answers rests at the steps of the face of Gukurahundi, President Emmerson Mnangwagwa, as the security minister of that time, he ordered the detention of many Ndebele public figures, his statements at the times indicate a person dedicated to his seeing the success of the Gukurahundi genocide through the fifth brigade and other state security organs. He, as a key member of Joint Operation Command (JOC), (a key national committee meeting of security chiefs and minsters who seat to brief the president). It is this meeting that should have gotten the report on the progress of Gukurahundi, on how many people were being killed, how many women were being bayoneted, raped, abused, how many people were dehumanized, displaced and forcible disappeared. This happened for every week for five years, Mugabe, other military commanders and enablers chose to go to the grave with this vital information, Dambudzo Mnangwagwa remains alive and has all the answers.

This is not a creation of my imagination, a tour to Tsholotsho  district, a majority of school that existed around that  period has a mass and shallow graves on it or nearby, same applies to the boreholes, in Plumtree not so long ago an attempt to create the road revealed a mass shallow grave,  a visit to Lupane wil reveal a population living in fear and finding its voice for justice, Insuza people will never forget the tragedy they witnessed, if you able to get to Nkosikazi and other araeas in Bubi District you will leave sad, today Belmont township in Nkayi stands where a Gukurahundi concentration camp stood. The people of Midlands were not spared, Ndebele families were selected during the night and day, their lives were cut short  for simply belonging to the wrong tribe, on one day 112 homes  belonging to Ndebele families were destroyed, some Ndebele men owning farms were selected, abducted and never seen again. Like the story of Bhalagwe in Kezi, their plaque was stolen too, a few weeks ago.

Gukurahundi is a national catastrophe, it requires a national approach. An acknowledgement by the perpetrator tops the list of what needs to be done. I submit that all that is wrong with the Zimbabwe politics has its roots on Gukurahundi, the political violence that has been part of our politics has roots from Gukurahundi as the perpetrator has learnt from the Gukurahundi script. Violence in general and Gukurahundi  genocide in particular has been used as tool for political power retention, they will continue to use it until Gukurahundi issue is dealt with and justice is served. The unreasonable detentions and the governance through statutory instruments carry some resemblance to state of emergency so a real political solution for a peaceful and reconciled state has to have a foundation on Gukurahundi solution.

One is tempted to ask that having gone throughout Matabeleland and the Midlands doing Gukurahundi memorialization and the seeking justice for Gukurahundi victims, you have seen the use of the state apparatus to scuttle these initiative in communities, including stealing of plaques and police bans on meetings in the communities, the compositions of the National Peace and Reconciliation that is an insult to the victims, the undermining of the NPRC by the same government through the creation of the bodies that duplicate the its mandate. Do you think that this government is committed to finding a solution to Gukurahundi genocide?

There is no price for guessing, the answer is an bold no, what seems central in the plan of the perpetrators is that the survivors of Gukurahundi and those that were toddlers then, that witnessed must all die and the genocide is forgotten, that is the reason why there is a war on instruments of memorialization and those that are involved in it. The world over and throughout history, true solutions of genocide can only be found when the perpetrators are out of power. It is my considered view that any avenue to attain peoples power though democratic means necessary now and in this not distant future, be about justice and truth for Gukurahundi .As a nation, we need to find this truth and justice while faces and foot soldiers of Gukurahundi are still alive. We owe this work to the departed 20 000 or more innocent victims of Gukurahundi genocide and a thousands more that survived.

Gifford Mehluli Sibanda is the secretary for Information and Publicity at Ibhetshu LikaZulu- an organistion seeking truth, justice and victim cented sustainable solution to Gukurahundi genocide.. He is reachable at

Source - Gifford Mehluli Sibanda
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