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Gukurahundi t-shirts proposal is sad lack of creativity

So some pro-Matabeleland political organisations truly believe Matabeleland people would be empowered by wearing t-shirts printed, ‘I am a dissident’? There are certainly better ways of protesting against the Gukurahundi massacres, and it is not this t-shirt inscription insult.

What the 38 years of Zimbabwean independence has taught us is that we are the reason ZANU PF treats us the way it does, and we are the only people who can turn our circumstances around. Organisations have a right to come up with ideas to deal with all forms of abuse our region has and continues to receive from ZANU PF but people have to be consulted too.

Everything (good or bad) starts from self-perception. We have learned that the way we think about ourselves determines our reality. When we start embracing our value, abilities and strengths, what others think of us will have little impact in our value system. We need to recognise too that much of what ZANU PF is doing in Matabeleland and its people has been unwittingly licenced by us; it is a mirror image of how we think about ourselves.

Jokingly calling ourselves ‘dissidents’ and our region ‘Dissidentland’, and believing that will somehow empower us displays a warped political belief, conduct and reality; it is an act of unrivalled self-contempt, political recklessness and gross insensitivity only usurped by the ZANU PF regime.

If Matabeleland wants Gukurahundi to be taken seriously and be viewed for the crime that it is for generations to come – a violation of human rights, we need to take a leaf out of the Jews’ handling of the holocaust. Unlike us who think making fun of the Gukurahundi period is the best way of dealing with it, the Jews have taken a serious route and remained disciplined and never will treat that holocaust period as some form of comedy.

We have learned and influential Mthwakazi people among us with calculated yet arguable confused political allegiances and suspicious interests who are trying to be too clever, attempt to rationalise and sort to remove emotions from the Gukurahundi human rights violations and replace that with heated academic debate whose scope is, unfortunately, determined not by the victims but the perpetrator.

A dictionary definition of dissident correct as it is, does not in itself adequately capture the context of the usage of the term in reference to Matabeleland by the ZANU PF government and its supporters. Paying a blind eye to the emotional intensity from that human rights abuse period is not only political deafness but damaging emotional insensitivity to the victims and their families.

When people turn Gukurahundi into simply a joke and a political advertisement, but completely disconnected from its victims, I think it is inappropriate and insensitive. Such behaviour minimises the crime and takes away interest from it and its victims.

How does calling oneself a ‘dissident’ and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned ‘I am a dissident’ effectively capture the impact of Gukurahundi and effectively raise the issue as significant in our political history? What makes our people think that such a stunt will be an effective political stance? Is there a precedence to such an approach and how successful was it?

Surely, no one could be so insensitive and opportunistic as to try to make economic capital from a human rights abuse of the scale of Gukurahundi! It would be interesting to know who will emblazon and sell these t-shirts, and what would happen to the proceeds from such sales?

When we make light of our Gukurahundi experiences ourselves, whatever short-term advantage may be gained, we are obviously encouraging others, including the perpetrators of the human rights violations of that period, to make light of the act; we thus encourage a culture of further abuse and impunity and thereby do incalculable damage to our own long-term interests.

If we continue being insensitive in our language and more intemperate in our actions regarding Gukurahundi atrocities, political progress will continue to elude us. Mthwakazi orientated political organisations need our people on board, but our people cannot be expected to support organisations presiding over inadequate policies, and organisations openly detached from their plight.

At the heart of this clear insensitivity by some of our own lies the politics of convenience deprived of principle but only ever reactionary to ZANU PF politics. These organisations remain in the unsavoury palm of ZANU PF, responsive only to it and never in control of anything outside their puppeteer. For real political progress to take place, our organisations must start responding to Mthwakazi needs which are often not necessarily the opposite of ZANU PF; our needs are not the opposite side of a coin for which ZANU PF makes the other face.

Wearing t-shirts emblazoned ‘I am a dissident’ is insensitive, disrespectful and demonstrates some of our politicians’ fabricated concern for the victims of Gukurahundi. Let us not be fooled and start thinking that ceasing to care for others’ emotions is objectivity. If we plan on finding a lasting solution to the Gukurahundi atrocities, we need to place things in their rightful context and be serious about serious issues.


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