Gukurahundi: who benefits from ‘moving on’?

Justice for victims of the Gukurahundi atrocities is Matabeleland’s goal, escaping accountability for the Gukurahundi genocide is ZANU PF’s dream. To effectively address the Gukurahundi atrocities, Zimbabwean society needs to come together to restore humanity against the background of ZANU PF sponsored dehumanisation. For years the party has maintained a loosened relationship with, and separated itself from, law and justice. The solution lies in Mashonaland and ethnic Shona people, when ethnic Shona people (Zimbabwe’s largest population group) unaffected by the Gukurahundi atrocities stop making excuses for the murders and are instead as outraged as ethnic minorities who are affected, justice will begin to be served.

Image copyright: Unknown. Gukurahundi victims buried in a mass grave

Evasion of justice

Escaping accountability for the Gukurahundi crimes against humanity has become ZANU PF’s political signature. The party has invested tremendous resources in the dubious modification of the Gukurahundi past to promote public amnesia. Soft and hard measures are deployed at will to manage the situation. Through the government it leads, the ZANU PF political machinery has set up commissions of enquiry not with the desire to address the crimes but to bid its time and hope that the Matabeleland public will somewhat forget or be frustrated enough to give up, and move on.

Understanding why and how ethnic Shona young men were convinced, armed and ordered into Matabeleland to carry out a genocide is important if Gukurahundi is to be fully addressed in this generation and prevent its repeat in the next generations. Somebody gave the instruction, and action must be taken on all those who ordered the killings. Enquiries have been carried out, we need to know the findings and recommendations from the Chihambakwe and Dumbutshena enquiries.

The face of tribalism

Tribalism is the anchor of Robert Mugabe and his compatriots’ ZANU, now called ZANU PF. Robert Mugabe lied shamelessly in the early 1980s about himself and about Joshua Nkomo and ethnic Ndebele people. He successfully separated the ethnic Shona public from reality, convinced millions of men and women that their safety was threatened by ethnic Ndebeles whom he recklessly labelled dissidents, and he alone cared deeply for them – he cared for their safety, and cared for their freedom. Meanwhile, his murderous ambition, avowed tribalism, and utter immorality was flashing a red light, and yet millions in Mashonaland were drawn to Mugabe precisely because he seemed and sounded authentic. The public screamed in unison – with happiness oozing from their hearts – that Nkomo was a dissident who needed to be hanged.

Gukurahundi reality

Society has to acknowledge the indignities that are still faced by Ndebele people in Zimbabwe. Gukurahundi atrocities cannot be hidden in the cellar of any building forever, they need to be addressed fully with due regard for victims’ feelings.

Distraction techniques are employed to suppress the real impact of the atrocities. The public is redirected to the 1987 Unity Accord, Nkomo is now immortalised, held in reverence, openly referred to as Father Zimbabwe; and his role in the Unity Accord is highlighted more than his demonization and harassment which led to him temporarily migrating to the UK for personal safety concerns.

The hypocrisy of the Unity Agreement must be called out; one cannot sanctify the 1987 Unity Accord but minimise and avoid altogether talk of events that make that day of public significance. To try and ignore Gukurahundi atrocities is heart-breaking immorality that should not be allowed space to breathe; the only way of closure and moving forward is accountability.

Time to show true leadership

We need an honest leadership that can elevate morality to its position of paramount importance. It must be appreciated that in matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, problems must be seen for what they are and victims treated accordingly without placing issues on a subjective scale to determine which problem is big or small.  

Who profits from the Gukurahundi amnesia?

Minimisation of Gukurahundi past is an ongoing and dangerous way of dealing with it. Countless times, Ndebeles have been told Gukurahundi is in the past and it is time to move on. This is a position that has been conveniently adopted by people whose very existence as a force depends on the Gukurahundi atrocities being a forgotten past or a historical inconvenience to be merely dismissed as ‘a moment of madness’.

Now, when considering the question: should we remember Gukurahundi? It is very important to ask the primary question, has any victim forgotten? Could they ever forget? And the follow up question would be, who wants to forget? Who benefits when the Gukurahundi atrocities stay silent in the past?

Conclusion

There may be times when people are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when all action is out of reach. Regarding Gukurahundi, there is just no motivation from the Mashonaland constituency to protest against it. The ethnic Shona dominated state’s attempts at promoting Gukurahundi amnesia is a farce and cannot be sustained regardless of immeasurable resources diverted in that direction. It must never be lost to society that peaceful coexistence is the product of mutuality between nations, an investment and sacrifice from everybody, and where justice is denied, where deprivation is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one population group is made to feel that systems and institutions in place are not designed to represent it, but an organised conspiracy to oppress it, degrade it and dehumanise it, the safety of everybody is threatened.

Published by RESEARCH HUB

a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Matabeleland human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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