Mugabe bash re-opens old wounds

BULAWAYO - Opposition political parties and civic organisations have described as insensitive Zanu PF youth league’s decision to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday in Matobo District, Matabeleland South, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Gukurahundi atrocities.

Mugabe’s annual birthday celebrations, which are held amid pomp and fanfare, will be held at Matopos National Park in Matabeleland South Province, which is just a few kilometres from Bhalagwe — a flashpoint of the atrocities which happened between 1983 and 1987.

More than 20 000 civilians died in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces when government deployed a North Korea-trained army unit, the Fifth Brigade, to these provinces to fight “insurrection” in a dark period which became known as Gukurahundi.

Yesterday, the opposition led in condemning the birthday bash which is organised by Zanu PF youth league yearly under the auspices of the 21st February Movement.

“As a chairman who works with the people in Mat South, they are saying we don’t want him (Mugabe) celebrating here. They are saying he should first apologise for the Gukurahundi sins or go conduct their celebrations in Zvimba,” raged Pilate Ndebele, chairman of Welshman Ncube-led MDC, in Matabeleland South.

“This is a serious high level disregard of the people’s feelings. Imagine just less than 50km from where they want to dine and wine, that’s where a place called Bhalagwe is, where Mugabe’s government dumped thousands of bodies in a disused mine.”

Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) secretary-general Mbonisi Gumbo said the decision by Zanu PF “is in bad taste and an insult to the victims and survivors of Gukurahundi.”

“As far as we are concerned, there is nothing to celebrate here. Mugabe and his Zanu PF have caused a lot of untold suffering in Matabeleland. As we speak there are thousands of dead bodies in Bhalagwe and they are all Mugabe’s victims,” Gumbo said.

“We are not stupid and forgetful. Just a few years ago, Mugabe insulted us saying Kalanga people are uneducated and are criminals who only trek down to South Africa and he never apologised for that.”

“We know Zanu PF has a tendency of force-marching villagers to their rallies without their consent. And this time around, we encourage our people to boycott the evil party that is meant to mock them and is meant to celebrate the success of Gukurahundi genocide. Let all peace-loving Matabeleland people boycott,” added Gumbo.

The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC also said it was a classic disrespect.

“The same person who killed our forefathers is back to celebrate his birthday in a way this is celebrating his victory against the Ndebeles.

“Again this is happening just a few kilometres away from our respected traditional and sacred spiritual site Njelele. These people really do not have respect for anyone as long they are ruling,” said Mat South MDC provincial chair Njemnyama Solani Moyo.

“So these people are telling us that they want to do a lavish bash right on top of the graves of the people they massacred in cold blood, no this is unheard of.”

Pressure group Ibhetsu LikaZulu also said they were in the process of encouraging people not to be intimidated or lured by food and donations to attend the birthday celebrations.

“It’s an insult to the people of Matopo and Matabeleland in general,” Mbuso Fuzwayo, the group’s secretary general told the Daily News.

“Mugabe’s birthday is not worth celebrating if you are from Matabeleland because he led the genocide in Matabeleland. He is so proud that even today he doesn’t want to just say sorry.

“It is like going to a funeral and start playing wedding songs. Matopo is a crime scene, where the bones of people from all over Matabeleland are found, so attending the event is clearly endorsing the killing of our people,” he forlonly added.

Mugabe’s birthday celebrations this year will be capped by a live musical gala featuring different artistes.

The nonagenarian’s birthday celebrations have courted strong opinions and last year his bash attracted widespread condemnation when it was held in Masvingo at the height of a ravaging famine which left livestock and impoverished communities needing emergency relief supplies.

A picture of a woman scrounging for crumbs from the high table where Mugabe and Zanu PF bigwigs were seated, captured long after the party had ended, caught the attention of the world after it went viral on social media.

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