By NQOBANI NDLOVU
OUTSPOKEN Gwanda traditional leader Chief Khulumani Mathema has rapped his colleagues in Matabeleland region for not speaking out about Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, saying they should help pile pressure on government to bring closure to the matter.
Chief Mathema made the remarks during a memorial service for 22 Gukurahundi victims, including 21 women who were locked in an grass-thatched kitchen hut and set ablaze by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade soldiers in Tsholotsho in 1983.
In October last year, traditional leaders were given the nod to lead Gukurahundi victims’ exhumations, reburials and peace-building efforts in their communities following protests against government involvement in the process.
This followed a consultative meeting between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and traditional leaders in Bulawayo.
Chief Mathema expressed frustration at some Matabeleland chiefs during the memorial service in Emkhonyeni village, accusing them of frustrating efforts to resolve the emotive Gukurahundi issue by not taking part in public discussions on the matter.
“We are divided as chiefs, not every chief wants to talk about Gukurahundi issues. Some of them are saying this issue must not be discussed,” Mathema said without naming them.
“Where I come from, people want to talk about it but some people from other areas are saying it’s an issue that has passed. We are divided as chiefs; we are not speaking with one voice. Let us unite and have what we call leadership because currently there is a vacuum in leadership,” he said.
The memorial service was organised by Ibhetshu likaZulu pressure group which has been vocal about the 1980s Gukurahundi mass killings where an estimated 20 000 civilians lost their lives.
Researchers argue that the killings were meant to force the creation of a one-party State as the majority of the victims were supporters of the opposition PF-Zapu party.
Last year, Gukurahundi survivor Charles Thomas, the opposition Zapu and Ibhetshu LikaZulu filed an urgent High Court chamber application for an order interdicting Mnangagwa and five others from conducting or leading the exhumation of the bodies of the Gukurahundi victims, saying they were complicit in the atrocities.