SOUTHERN NEWS | Govt tampers with Gukurahundi mass graves

BULAWAYO - Political activists here have taken a swipe at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government for tampering with Gukurahundi mass graves at Bhalagwe Shrine, in Kezi, Matabeleland South Province.

This comes after it emerged that government erased inscriptions on the mass graves leaving them blank in what political activists say is a move to conceal evidence of the deadly atrocities which left thousands dead, in post-independence civil disturbances.

After erasing the inscriptions, authorities replaced them with a commemoratory structure inscribed; “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” erected behind the two mass graves.

Bhalagwe is the Gukurahundi flash point where thousands of those killed were thrown into a disused mine. Initially, soon after the atrocities, names of victims were inscribed on the mass graves but were later removed by Mugabe regime, in what observers viewed as a clear attempt to conceal evidence.

As if that was not enough, the Gukurahundi graves were later mixed with those of local war heroes which saw the shrine being turned into a Matopo District Heroes Acre.

Mthwakazi Republic Party president Mqondisi Moyo who led an entourage of his party members on their usual visit to the site, on Monday said they were shocked to realise that the two mass graves had been tempered with. “The Gukurahundi mass graves in Bhalagwe revealed some shocking developments,” he said.

“The delegation which was accompanied by victims and international journalists was shocked to discover that the inscriptions on the graves that read ‘Mass Graves’ have been erased by plastering on them. The concealing plaster is still new, indicating that this horrible act was done recently,” Moyo said.

“The victims of Gukurahundi were evidently pained with this blatant act of tampering with the evidence of the genocide. Bhalagwe is not a heroes shrine; it is a genocide victims’ site.”

Ironically, Moyo said the names of the heroes of the struggle are visible, while those of the victims have been removed. He, however, said he was confident that the removal of the mass graves inscriptions and the erection of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier were done during the Heroes’ Day holiday as they had visited the place a month before.

“We don’t need the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Bhalagwe, instead we need the Plaque of the Gukurahundi victims and the tomb of the unknown Gukurahundi victims who disappeared and are unaccounted for,” Moyo said.

In May, activists Ibhetshu Likazulu were twice blocked by the police as they were constructing a plaque of the Gukurahundi victims at the site. Moyo said the perpetrators of the genocide are surely on a mission and are not relenting in burying the truths on Gukurahundi. “We will fight this traverse of justice for the victims of Gukurahundi. We demand that those names must be returned as an act of remorse and solace to the families and relatives of the victims. Hands off our fathers and mothers and allow them to sleep in peace. They cannot be tormented while living and when dead,” he said.

Dabengwa condemns NPRC

BULAWAYO - ZAPU president Dumiso Dabengwa has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to review his appointment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) whose composition he said was improper rendering it ineffective and meaningless to its cause.

Last year, Mnangagwa signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill into law to operationalise the commission that was appointed in 2016. The NPRC Act provides for the functions, powers, operations and removal from office of members of the commission.

According to Section 252 of the Constitution, the NPRC’s functions are to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. However, the Commission that has been undertaking consultations countrywide in the past few months has been received with mixed feelings. With Mnangagwa having been given a five-year mandate to lead the country, Dabengwa felt it was time the issue of national healing be prioritised.

“NPRC should be formed afresh, I mean its composition, I think the president must ponder over it and see exactly how it is,” Dabengwa told Southern News.

“The composition was not well considered. We want the people who are relevant and competent enough; those are the people who should be able to speak to the elders in the rural areas in the language they understand. So, there is need for people in the commission who understand other people’s language,” he said.

In February this year, debate on the consultative dialogue by the NPRC had to be aborted in Bulawayo after local activists disrupted proceedings, saying the composition of the commission is not reflective of the national outlook while others called for an international organisation to deal with disturbances of the past. The activists claimed there was no tribal balance in the commission which eventually discredited its sincerity in conducting its duties. However, asked about the idea of having the NPRC under the office of Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Dabengwa said: “It is supposed to be an independent commission so when it falls under someone’s office then there is a problem. We want to see a completely independent commission.”

Dabengwa also attacked Mnangagwa for prioritising the recent shooting of protesters by the army in Harare ahead of the Gukurahundi atrocities.

“Mnangagwa should be sincere enough and do what is right, six people were shot by the army and a Commission of Inquiry was quickly put in place but we have a situation where he is failing to put in place a stronger commission for 20 000 people who perished, surely it shows something is wrong,” the Zapu president said.

In December last year, Dabengwa declared that if the Gukurahundi issue was not addressed, he was going to disregard the law and lead reburials of the victims. However, in a major climb down, Dabengwa said he was now assessing the situation.

“I said the statement before these other developments. We want to give Mnangagwa an opportunity to reconsider how he will handle all these things.”

In 2016, in an interview with United Kingdom-based magazine New Statesman, Mnangagwa said reports linking him to the atrocities were being peddled by his political foes to soil his image.

Time to give youths a chance: Masuku

BULAWAYO - Former Bulawayo Provincial Affairs minister Angeline Masuku, 83, says she won’t quit politics, hence will keep her feet on the ground despite age fast catching up with her.

A former governor of Matabeleland South Province during the new dispensation,  Masuku served as a provincial minister for nine months till last week when she was replaced by Judith Ncube.

“I am full time in politics, I won’t quit politics, I was born in it remember?” Masuku told Southern News after she was left in the cold by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“I am a (Zanu PF) central committee member, so I am not going anywhere. It is politics that brought government, so we are here to stay,” she said.

A former liberation fighter, Masuku collapsed at White City Stadium in April this year while reading Mnangagwa’s speech during Uhuru celebrations, leaving many questioning if she was still fit enough for such a demanding job. At the time she denounced those who were calling for her to step down.

Although she has been left in the cold, Masuku praised Mnangagwa’s recent Cabinet appointments saying it was time for the younger generation to take over.

“We are happy with what happened I think it’s time that we give young people a chance to be in leadership positions. We have to groom them and remember the best way to groom someone is when you are there monitoring,” she said.

Masuku, described the short stint she had as Provincial Affairs minister as fruitful though the economy made most of her ambitions impossible.

Upon being appointed to the post, Masuku announced an ambitious plan to rebrand Bulawayo as the best investment destinations in the country within 100 days.

“As far as I am concerned my tenure was fruitful, people of Bulawayo are finding each other, and we work together as one united family regardless of tribe and race,” she said.

“We had a think tank initiative which was part of reviving Bulawayo; we engaged the business community and they were united.”

She, however, said the economic situation was the biggest let down.

“The biggest challenge was the economic situation in the country. We had a number of wishes to revive Bulawayo but there was no money.”

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