Closure long overdue  for Gukurahundi victims

© THIRTY-TWO long years after the Gukurahundi massacres in the Matabeleland and the Midlands regions, this ugly part of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history is refusing to be wished away. And for a good reason too!

A 1997 report by the Catholic Commission on Peace and Justice, drawing on more than 1 000 interviews, said between 10 000 to 20 000 civilians were killed during that period — from 1983 to 1987. 

The killings only ended when Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo agreed to join the ruling party in 1987 through what became known as the Unity Accord, masterminded by his rival then Robert Mugabe, who was the country’s Prime Minister.

Many of the dead were buried in shallow graves, mass graves and disused mines. Others disappeared, according to the 1997 report and witness accounts. A tragedy of that magnitude cannot be wished away nor swept under the carpet.

Mugabe — the man who unleashed the army into the affected regions under the guise of crushing dissidents — flatly refused to apologise for the deaths during his 37-year-long reign, describing the massacres as a “moment of madness”.
He also dispatched a probe team to investigate events of that period but the report was never made public.

Following his overthrow by the military in November 2017, the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has tasked the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to revisit the issue after it became one of the major talking points in the run up to the July 30 elections.

Mnangagwa’s government has promised to exhume and rebury those who died during Gukurahundi to bring closure to the killings.

His government said it will also assist people whose parents died in the campaign to get proper identity documents, as well as medical help for those injured. But like Mugabe, Mnangagwa has refused to apologise for his alleged role though he said people should be free to talk about the killings.

Somehow, we have this feeling that Mnangagwa could be trying to buy time in the hope of deferring resolution of this emotive issue to the next generation.
We hope this is not the case, because justice delayed is justice denied.

Here, Mnangagwa and his administration have an opportunity to conclusively deal with this long-standing matter so that those affected can turn a new page and move on with their lives.

As unpalatable as truth can be, especially for those implicated in the massacres, Zimbabweans need to know the truth before they can talk about reconciliation.