via Bulawayo24 NEWS | The case for the reburial of Gukurahundi Genocide victims by Bantubenkosi Sithole 19 January 2014
It is cause for much regret that most contributions to the Zimbabwean political debate are taken not in good humour but in ill will as attacks on the political establishment. In my previous article to this esteemed news portal I wrote to question the sincerity of the ruling party in honouring the late Joshua Nkomo. It was my emphatic contention that the honours that are belatedly being heaped on Nkomo bespeak an attempt by ZANU-PF to make full political capital of the good name and legacy of Joshua Nkomo while continuing to erase ZIPRA and ZAPU from the mainstream historical narrative of Zimbabwe. It smacks of criminal political opportunism to use the name of the departed in vain, to harvest the fruits of their legacy and continue to diminish the values and ideals that they lived and suffered for.
In this article I continue to probe the cynical and negligent politics of a regime that has thrown human values outside the window and that has turned the keeping of political power into a god and a religion. This poverty of conscience and morality is not dramatised more in any issue than the continued neglect that the ZANU-PF regime gives to the issue of the dead and the living victims of the Gukurahundi massacres. In my life in the diaspora I have met face to face the misery of exiled Gukurahundi victims who are virtually stateless, and futureless.
The case of Xolani Mdlongwa of the Siphepha area in Tsholotsho is a spectacular example of how the Gukurahundi genocide continues to tax its victims, and will continue even to punish their children and descendants. Xolani could not attend school because he had no birth certificate as both his parents perished during the killings. As a result he could not get any employment because besides having no education he did not have any identity documents. In 1996 Xolani crossed the Limpopo River to seek informal and menial employment in South Africa. As I write Xolani survives in Pretoria from doing piecegardening jobs and other jobs that befit an illegal immigrant who cannot formalize his stay in South Africa because he has no identity documents. From the poor pickings that Xolani makes from his menial jobs, he feeds his family and educates his younger brothers back in Zimbabwe.
Because of the case of such victims of Gukurahundi as Xolani, I was infuriated when I read reports that addressing a rally in Gwanda; Robert Mugabe scoffed at the young people of Matabeleland who jump the boarder to South Africa only to bring back second hand bicycles. Does the President of Zimbabwe know that most of those people who dare crocodiles and wild waters of the Limpopo do so because there is no life for them in Zimbabwe? Does the President of Zimbabwe know that most of those people do not believe that they are Zimbabweans because of how his brutal and genocidal rule has impacted on them, and continues to punish them years after the massacres stopped?
It is not as much my intention to tell the story of living victims of the Gukurahundi genocide such as Xolani Mdlongwa. What point I wish to make is that the Zimbabwean government should find it in itself to urgently attend to the mass graves and shallow graves of Gukurahundi victims that are scattered throughout Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces. For a government that has sought to portray itself as an Africanist government this should not be too much to ask. The government of Zimbabwe should rise to the responsibility of governing and leadership and ensure that those who perished in the Gukurahundi genocide are laid to rest in dignity for the peace and comfort of their families and relatives.
Because of scattered shallow graves, mass graves and human bones that are strewn all over the region, the cultural and spiritual lives of the people of Matabeleland Midlands are so unstable and irregular. Farming activities and other land based activities now and again have to be altered to cater for the unmarked graves and human bones that are all over the place and have to be given respect.
The relatives of those whose remains lie in the wilderness cannot perform traditional rites to their departed in line with their culture, and cannot even rebury their loved ones in fear of a vindictive government that wishes the Gukurahundi episode of Zimbabwean history was forgotten. The relatives and families of those whose bones lie in the wilderness together with those of birds and beasts are nursing a deep grievance and remain in perpetual mourning as they cannot find closure to the Gukurahundi episode of Zimbabwean history while their loved ones lie in dishonour.
Are there no men and women of honour in the Zimbabwean government who can prevail on the ZANU-PF leadership to do the right thing and conduct reburials of Gukurahundi victims to promote peace and national healing in the country? Are there no men and women of conscience in ZANU-PF who can emphathise with the sorrow and plight of families and relatives of Gukurahundi victims who have to live with the agony of seeing the remains of their loved ones scattered across the land together with those of dogs, donkeys and cattle? The government should not wait for activists and opposition political parties to politicise the issue, but should find it in its power to address the problem of mass graves and shallow graves before it becomes a source of new conflicts.
The people of Matabeleland and Midlands still relive the trauma and horror of the genocide as the bones of their loved ones continue to remind them daily of that painful past where the state turned against unarmed civilians. If the government of Zimbabwe values the unity and nationhood of Zimbabwe it should take steps to right this wrong which continues to afflict a section of the population of the country.
If perhaps the government finds it embarrassing or taxing in any way to conduct reburial ceremonies for the victims of Gukurahundi, they should do the right thing and give relatives and families of the victims permision to rebury their loved ones in descent graves. There should be enough non-governmental organisations and international well-wishers who are willing to support the noble cause of laying in peace the victims of that dark episode in the history of Zimbabwe. Among the organisations that are willing to rise to the responsibility to rebury victims of Gukurahundi, New Generation Movement, an organisation in whose interest I write, is prepared to provide support in form of human resources and other requirements once the government of the day has provided the political will. In this project, the support and participation of traditional leaders, the church and traditional spiritual leaders will be important.
Care should be taken by all serious Zimbabweans to realise that the matter of shallow graves and mass graves that populate Matabeleland and Midlands is more than just a partisan political matter but a grave humanitarian issue that must worry all citizens of Zimbabwe.
The onus is not on government and political players only. The wounded people of Matabeleland and Midlands themselves who give votes and political support to politicians should find the strength to speak with one voice and demand that political leaders address the grave issue of mass graves and shallow graves that are strewn throughout the region. Why should these wounded people endorse politics and politicians that do not recognise their humanity? In light of my argument above, and the willingness of such organisations as the New Generation Movement to move in and assist with the reburial of Gukurahundi victims, the government should be able to provide the much needed political will and leadership.
The perpetrators of Gukurahundi, most of whom are still in the helm of politics in Zimbabwe, should also find it in themselves to help with the information of the location of other mass graves that are yet to be located. That disclosure and show of willingness to support the reburial may go a long way to show the important gesture that perpetrators of Gukurahundi are willing to join the victims in building a new Zimbabwe of peace and forgiveness. It will be an enormous error for the government to regard these efforts at the reburial of victims of Gukurahundi as an attack or a challenge of any form. In fact, the authorities that be should see this motion as an opportunity to repair the massive damage in the national fabric.