Don't ban commemorative prayers

HARARE - There is something inexplicable that drives wholesome fear in the heart of government authorities about allowing the public to momentarily re-live a period in our recent history when thousands of innocent civilians died during an acknowledged “moment of madness”.

Thrice on the trot, police have banned prayers in commemoration of that wretched period during the early years of independence dubbed Gukurahundi.

The reasons for their reaction was that prayer may cause disharmony and those opposed to the event may take advantage of the prayer meeting without explaining what type of advantage opponents might take or who the opponents to a part of history are.

What kindred disharmony could prayers in memory of the departed cause?

By proscribing religious session, the police might unwittingly ramp up curiosity among young generations and hone their interest to know what happened so as to assign blame.

Regularly, politicians have enjoined the public to hark back to the country’s history while encouraging them to draw lessons from it. But when it comes to remembering those that fell during Gukurahundi — soldiers and civilians alike — there emerges a visceral fear that something might go wrong.

No one really knows where that implausible assumption stems from.

Certainly the supposition ignores the therapeutic effect memorial sessions such as these have on those affected by events of the period.

Commemorative prayers serve as a part of a national healing process.

More poignant is the puzzlement mirrored in the organisers when they questioning where else on earth a prayer session requires police clearance. This does not read well from where Zimbabweans Christians are sitting in terms of misinterpretations of current legislation.

How the police boss could cite, among other trite reasons, that the district had depleted staff so could not take charge of the event in the circumstances to block the prayer but deployed two truckloads in riot gear beggars all belief.

Gukurahundi is part of national history and no amount of persuasion or draconian reaction can wish that period away. From that moment of madness, the nation has derived lessons that it can only guarantee national progress through unity of purpose.

The Unity Accord celebrated annually every December reminds Zimbabweans that there was once a period when mistrust and divisions nearly cost the newly-found democracy immense opportunities to work for the good of a nascent nation unless its people stepped back from the precipice.

That unity agreement did not just emerge from nowhere. It had its roots in Gukurahundi and functions to remind everyone of us that mistrust and divisions can be a nation’s undoing.

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