Gukurahundi atrocities mark a sombre spot in Mthwakazi’s history and totally transformed the nation; our perception of our nation was altered. The atrocities shook the foundations of diversity, tore down the very fabric of who we are – a tolerant nation, undermined trust between and within communities, planted suspicion and bred in norms and values founded on paranoia. Also infused was the seed of hatred between tribes and ethnic groups who otherwise had lived peacefully side by side and fought racism together.
Our biggest obstruction to the fight for justice for Gukurahundi victims is the unconscionable journalistic bias displayed in the ZANU PF-led state and the closely related elite controlled mainstream media. Zimbabwean media is dominated by emotionally distant ethnic Shona journalists whose attitude to Matabeleland issues is, ‘What has it do with me?’
Many, if not most of these journalists are emotionally detached not out of a desire to achieve objectivity but out of a desire to keep close to the perspective of official Harare and the closely related elite, and in conformity with the state set narrative.
In the mainstream media the Gukurahundi atrocities are seen and treated as a political inconvenience, if not being used for cheap politicking. The result is that the public’s thinking is morally confused because it is informed by the morally confused, and oftentimes politically conflicted, media.
The mainstream media has rendered patriotic criticism of Mthwakazi movements standing against ZANU PF government’s offhand approach in addressing Gukurahundi atrocities, even accusing them of fomenting tribalism, but criticism of those misrepresenting Gukurahundi as a legitimate military intervention unacceptable.
When it comes to interpreting our past, the responsibility falls on our shoulders; we need to write our history the way we understand our past. We need to stop subcontracting that role to the oppressor and his associates in the mainstream media. Let us look at sourcing funding that will sustain the noble causes of such Trusts as the Mafela Trust and similarly opined organisations with a genuine interest in Mthwakazi empowerment to carry out research and counter disinformation and misinformation that continues to be a curse in to communities.
There is a deliberate under reporting of the Gukurahundi atrocities and their long term impact on Mthwakazi’s social, economic and political circumstances which is overshadowed by mainstream media’s narrative that purports to focus on ZANU PF led government’s overall failures on issues of national interest where ‘national’ means ethnic Shona people and/ or Mashonaland.
We do not love being victims and we make it clear that we are not raising the Gukurahundi atrocities simply out of the desire of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Mthwakazi people before the public. It is not in our interest for Mthwakazi citizens not to lose their grievances; we do not profit from victims of tribalism staying victims but we do not want the truth of those atrocities to be buried under the blanket of silence.
What fuels and justifies our focus on Gukurahundi is the desire to see true justice for the victims, dead and alive and their families as well as the region. It must never be lost that during the Gukurahundi military intervention, Mthwakazi was not only illegally deprived of life and dignity, it was starved of not only food but investment of all kind.
Without access to clinically approved treatments, victims of Gukurahundi remain hounded by the psychological trauma of their experience; instead they are stigmatised and excluded from the main economic activities of their local areas. Our people are accused of lacking interest in education and only obsessed with going to South Africa.
Until a broad-based organ led by an erudite Mthwakazi intelligentsia is allowed to work with the victims and their communities to draft best methods of investigating Gukurahundi atrocities properly and until there is proper restitution for the victims and the laws of the land recognise the atrocities as such and start to punish the authors and executors, we will not stop talking about Gukurahundi.
In our fight against Gukurahundi atrocities, let us not use tribalism as a tool. Just as Audre Lorde argues that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, using tribalism to fight tribalism may win us some tribal battles but not the war on tribalism. Mthwakazi has always been a multinational state, its future lies in recognising and protecting individual liberties and freedoms of all nationalities within its boundaries.
We require a vibrant media to break down Zimbabwe’s narrative to its smallest constituents, deliver it for public scrutiny and crush it. Access to information is essential, allow no role for censorship; our citizens should be able to exercise their right to free speech, however uncomfortable that speech may be for some. Censoring those holding different views will not bridge the divisions in our society, a political process is required instead.
Zimbabwe mainstream media playing homage to a political narrative that advocates cruelty and barbarism to achieve an unquestionably tribalist end is a grotesque affront to the noble cause of the fight against colonial rule. It is our responsibility to fight the official Harare narrative inside and outside the country. A multi-pronged attack paying special attention to the development of counter media tools to confront mainstream media is vital in our fight for Gukurahundi victims’ justice.