We should not claim surprise that in a Zimbabwe born out of ethnic discrimination, ethnic discrimination remains at the centre of the country’s political systems. Our future is greater than our past; our wisdom will not be drawn from a mere recollection of our past but by the responsibility we shoulder for our future and that means confronting Gukurahundi perpetrators head on.
Ignorance is the single most powerful blockade to action on Gukurahundi; a good education is required to detoxify our historical facts and then start a genuine healing process. Some learned, particularly non-ethnic Ndebele individuals have sort to turn Gukurahundi into nothing more than a mere academic debate; they try to distract focus from the 1983 genocide in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands by shamelessly querying figures of those affected.
The same individuals often bring this uncanny ‘moving forward’ concept without defining what this ‘moving forward’ entails. Phrases or advice such as ‘Let’s move on’ are not uncommon from some scholars; you wonder who is the ‘us’ in the ‘let’s’? First, people should be prepared to acknowledge the fact that Gukurahundi happened and that it was a genocidal act. Furthermore, we have to accept that the genocide was state sanctioned and focused on frightening Matabeles into obedience after the Entumbane disturbances. Between 1983 and 1984 the State imposed curfew zones in Matabeleland and the Midlands; significantly the intervention coincided with the arrival of the murderous North Korean trained fifth brigade (a unit formed outside of the regular military brigades and composed only of ethnic Shona young men and reporting directly to the Head of State).
The term, genocide, was coined by the Jewish-Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin (1943) who combined the Greek word “genos” (race or tribe) with the Latin word “cide” (to kill). Dr Lemkin campaigned to have genocide recognised as a crime under international law.
His efforts led to the adoption of the UN Convention on Genocide in December 1948, which came into effect in January 1951. Article Two of the Convention defines genocide as “…any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group…”:
- killing members of the group,
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,
- deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,
- imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group,
- and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2016).
Many ethnic Shona academics are by default guilty of supporting the objectives of the Gukurahundi by undermining, if not entirely dismissing its occurrence and/ or impact while promoting an ethnic Shona superiority narrative that alleges Gukurahundi was a legal intervention in pursuit of ‘dissidents’ whose existence unfortunately remains a myth to date. Genocide is a dangerous politics that promises utopia beyond politics; it attempts to rid society of difference, promises oneness. Oneness built on execution of some communities for being different is barbarism.
Too much power in the hands of a few is the fuel such acts as genocide thrive on is what Zimbabwean independence teaches us. We will not rest until those responsible for the Gukurahundi atrocities are brought to account, they need to complete all their legal requirements or the case cannot be officially closed. The biggest challenge for Matabeleland right now is to remove the perceived immunity or veil shielding ZANU PF genocide perpetrators from charges for planning and executing the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Holocaust Encyclopedia (2016) What is Genocide? [Online]. Available from https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007043 (Accessed 20/04/16).