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Gukurahundi is a lived reality never to be forgotten

We just want to make a few observations: Gukurahundi happened. Mugabe was a demonic figure. The hypocrisy of those who say Gukurahundi is the past that should be forgotten is not lost to us, they also happen to have holocaust as a topic in their history syllabuses. Someone must tell those tales because they make the totality of our society, they impact our present and contribute towards the shape of our future. We will hold onto the Gukurahundi past not because we have become slave to it but because we want to retain control of it.

This generation will not sleepwalk or daydream into a state of complicity; we will not allow the present to change and suppress the past, we will stay alert, dig up to the last bone so for generations to come our people will be able to find their past wherever it was left.

People need to understand we do understand Gukurahundi is the past, but it is a past never to be forgotten. We do have legitimate reasons to investigate that past, not least because its consequences are in the present walking in the future; Matabeleland people do not benefit from the silencing of the Gukurahundi past but bullies in Harare are emboldened.

Let it be clear we are looking back in the past not out of fear of the future, but as a deliberate act and essential for us to understand our current circumstances and constructively define and live our lives forward.

One must understand what caused Gukurahundi or it will happen again. Gukurahundi was not a moment of madness or murderous madness, it was a pre-planned political intervention – a policy for killing civilians who belonged in tribes other than Shona. It was a fulfilment of Mugabe and ZANU’s ideological construction that Zimbabwe should not only be a one-party state but a Shona state. In that ideological conception people of Matabeleland were defined as the threat or weed that needed to be eradicated.  

The ultimate betrayal of Matabeleland people came not from the cruelty of the Mugabe government but the silence of global leaders and international governing bodies. In a world where a genocide in Africa is minimised if Western interests are unharmed the international community went silent when unarmed Matabele civilians were killed, tortured, raped and starved for who they were by a military unit built precisely for that purpose. We have no doubt that it is that silence by the international community, in particular Britain, that played a greater part in aiding the Mugabe government’s vile actions in Matabeleland.

The British policy during the genocide in Matabeleland was that of wilful complicity with evil. British officials conspired to allow genocide to happen. We may not know exactly how much Whitehall knew at the time, but we know the British government of the time prioritised its diplomatic relations with Harare over justice of a persecuted non-white minority.

Quizzed in 2002 on the BBC Panorama programme by journalist Fergal Keane about how much Whitehall had known about Gukurahundi, Sir Martin Ewans who was high commissioner in Harare at the time, said that his instructions from London were ‘to steer clear of it’ when speaking to Mugabe.

Britain with all its knowledge of the injustice taking place in Matabeleland at the hands of Mugabe’s government chose silence, chose to protect diplomatic relations over human lives, and by so doing encouraged the tormentor to push his boundaries even more. We will not shy away from our responsibilities to find justice for Matabeleland and its people; we will talk and act until global authorities hear our voices and act.

If it is possible to invest in the investigation of genocidal acts and rehabilitation of their European victims, it must be equally possible to extend the same capabilities and resources to Matabeleland. Overcoming the short and long-term effects of Gukurahundi need not be viewed as a gesture of charity but an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

Distortion of the Gukurahundi past, denying and minimising the crimes of the time is an unforgiveable crime against humanity. If now is not the right time to address Gukurahundi genocide, then when are we going to deal with it. One thing is certain: we shall no longer wait for perpetrators to tell us how to cope. Silence serves the perpetrators, not the victims. Taking control of the Gukurahundi narrative is our responsibility; we are no longer accepting the argument that Gukurahundi is the past to be hidden away, we are building and maintaining the narrative that it is a past to go back to in order to understand it and live our lives forward. A new political order must be installed that will ensure Gukurahundi comes to the fore, it is commemorated by its Matabele victims just as the ‘Unity Agreement’ of 1987 is esteemed by its Harare beneficiaries.

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