Govt must protect Gukurahundi plaques: Pressure group

Source: Govt must protect Gukurahundi plaques: Pressure group -Newsday Zimbabwe

MATABELELAND-BASED pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, has called on government to deploy security personnel to guard plaques that the organisation erected on several Gukurahundi mass graves in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces after some were vandalised.

The pressure group claims that, on several occasions, it has replaced some plaques which were vandalised by suspected State security agents.

Its secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo said this month they are planning to replace plaques destroyed at Bhalagwe mass graves in Matobo and in Silobela, Midlands province.

Fuzwayo yesterday said government had a moral obligation to erect memorial plaques in honour of the estimated 20 000 civilians killed by the army during the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s.

He said in cases where individuals and human rights groups would have taken a leading role, government should then safeguard the structures.

“We are working on a programme of replacing the plaques that were destroyed. If all goes according to plan, we hope that  this month some will get replaced.  They are actually ready. We have programmes in Tsholotsho, Bhalagwe and Silobela. We have plaques that have been destroyed previously and as an organisation we won’t do anything,” Fuzwayo said.

He queried why the vandals only targeted Gukurahundi plaques, leaving out Rhodesian plaques.

“Why are the Rhodesian plaques not being destroyed  and Gukurahundi plaques destroyed?  Is it because of denial? The government must publicly acknowledge that a mistake was done and that there’s something which needs to be done to address this. We will put up the plaques and we won’t guard them. Government has a role to protect them,” he said.

“We have to install plaques in Tsholotsho, Nkayi, Lupane Bhalagwe, Silobela and some other areas because people are still asking us to replace the destroyed plaques and put in areas which we had not put.”

In July, Ibhetshu LikaZulu partnered with various interest groups such as the National Transitional Justice Working Group and erected a memorial plaque on a mass grave where six people were allegedly killed by the army in Salankomo village, Tsholotsho, in 1983.