1983/ 84 Gukurahundi genocide survivors of Matabeleland were failed twice: once at the initial point of their abuse/ trauma when the world conveniently looked away and again when the system failed to acknowledge their needs; the Zimbabwe institutions and media has gone as far as questioning the numbers affected by that act of barbarism, that is, if not blaming the people of Matabeleland for their butcher – civilians accused of harbouring dissidents whose existence the government has yet to prove beyond reasonable doubt. This is inexcusable, but not unexpected, behaviour in the independent Africa.
Victim shaming is expensive exercise
Blaming victims of Gukurahundi genocide is pathetic politicking that will not resolve Zimbabwe’s extensive political problems, and minimisation of Gukurahundi does not make its effect less in Matabeleland or absolve its perpetrators. Goading ethnic Ndebele people about Gukurahundi is arrogance and blindness to emotional pain, such behaviour questions the integrity of ethnic Shona people and justifies increasing and constant calls by the Matabeleland movement for an independent state of Mthwakazi/ Matabeleland separate from Mashonaland.
It is hardly a secret why the ZANU PF-led government and its many sympathisers in the majority Shona tribe do not want to hear about Gukurahundi – it is because right now, that is the only way they know how to overcome the sense of guilt and avoid accountability for the murders of innocent Ndebele civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands. Another reason is, by refusing to recognise the reality for what it is, ZANU PF hopes the longer that position is maintained, people of Matabeleland will forget and ‘move on’.
Crime has never been addressed by ignoring it but through confronting the participants, and ensuring all perpetrators are charged without fear or favour for their involvement, and its multifactorial causes are genuinely addressed so that there is no repeat in the future.
Excusing Gukurahundi atrocities because the victims were Ndebele people may make sense to many in Mashonaland, but it legitimises State violence everywhere, excuses dictatorship, promotes intolerance of difference, and this is the reason ZANU PF has continued to use violence to impose its will on the civilian population. The problem now is that the scope of the violence has widened and is no longer limited to minority tribes but whosoever does not accept the ZANU PF doctrine or has a different ideological location to that of the ZANU PF grand master and has the nerve to share it with the public.
Why Matabeleland Gukurahundi survivors’ needs are ignored
Marginalising locals from the process meant to address Gukurahundi atrocities brings about doubt of sincerity of the process, and questions its credibility due to glaring local misrepresentation. By letting the perpetrators of the atrocities investigate themselves, do the body count of their victims, determine the emotional experience of the survivors and decide what closure should look like then you ensure the Gukurahundi trauma continues for generations to come.
What is evident is that the biggest problem is the lack of understanding of the psychological changes that Gukurahundi brought to people in Matabeleland. Social judgment of chronically traumatized people of Matabeleland when conducted by ethnic Shona people, people external to and divorced from our experience, tends to be extremely harsh. Mthwakazi’s complaints about the State abuse in the 1980s and against its ongoing systemic manifestations, and our smouldering anger often frustrate the people from the majority Shona tribe who frequently subject Matabeleland movements to furious condemnation.
Matabeleland movements are accused of tribe-baiting for complaining about biased tribal systems and institutions of Zimbabwe. Young men and women are frequently subjected to dehumanising physical and psychological mistreatment by the state security organs for doing nothing more than demand their right to access to local jobs, training and education, among other local opportunities.
Call black, ‘black’, not ‘dark blue’
If Zimbabwe is truly for all then people need to stop using tribal allegiance as a legitimate tool for diagnosing crimes and face reality, and attribute blame correctly. The issue at stake is ethnic Shona aggression toward Matabeleland not Ndebele tribalism. Calling Ndebele people tribalists for merely expressing love for themselves and protecting their interests is misplaced anger. Instead there should be more distaste for the abusers in government than for the survivors of that abuse.
For all we know, the reality is that ZANU PF and its sympathisers will not get condemnation for their Gukurahundi actions – nobody is going to be charged for their involvement in actions leading to the execution of unarmed civilians by a specially trained military unit.
Protecting Shona privilege is perhaps the biggest reserve of ZANU PF insurance. Because the party draws its authority from the majority ethnic Shona population who have long been convinced Ndebele people were a threat to their safety and thus believe their interests, safety and security are better off in the hands of an ethnic Shona dominated ZANU PF, nothing is going to change; ZANU PF is a reflection of ethnic Shona elite interests and it will protect the ethnic Shona elite, and the ethnic Shona elite will protect ZANU PF – no ZANU leader will be prosecuted for their part in the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Cancerous tribalism continues to cloud professional judgement and actions in African society today. Sanctions for crimes depend not on the gravity of the action but who the recipient or survivor is. If Gukurahundi murders were viewed as crime against humanity and carried that weight on them instead of being judged as just the killing of Ndebeles, how the crime is weighted and investigated would be different. Caution is advised against reducing human beings to tribes and/ or races as though devoid of feelings. We implore our ethnic Shona compatriots to stop blaming victims of the 1983/ 84 Gukurahundi atrocities in Matabeleland while shielding and giving abusers in the ethnic Shona dominated government the licence to continue appropriating power and abusing the civilian population.