Source: News in depth: Matobo, Insiza political violence evokes Gukurahundi memories – The Standard
It was a scorching hot October afternoon as Ntombizodwa Ndlovu* led us to a shade at her home which is perched on a hill near the Matobo Game Reserve in Matabeleland South.
Ndlovu sat on a bench, sighed, and shook her head. She was visibly in pain.
“You can’t take my pictures, I also don’t want my name to be published because they will come back for me,” Ndlovu said.
After some hesitation, the 65-year-old grandmother broke her silence.
“I will never forget that in my life,” she said.
“Imagine old as I am, being beaten by very young boys, young enough to be my grandchildren.
“They tore our clothes. I was left with only a petticoat. We ran and only got assistance with some wrapping clothes from other women who were passing by.
“To make matters worse, the young boys were speaking in Shona, exporting violence. Do they want to come with another Gukurahundi?”
Images of the victims wearing bras, others bare-breasted went viral, adding to their embarrassment.
She is one of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) community organisers who were assaulted and stripped of their upper clothing by Zanu PF supporters ahead of recent by-elections.
They were mobilising support for their aspiring candidates contesting Local Government elections in Matobo’s ward 2 and ward 4 in Insiza held on October 22.
Zanu PF won the two seats.
The run-up to the polls was characterised by violence after suspected Zanu PF activists unleashed an orgy of terror and this forced some CCC activists, including aspiring candidates to flee their homes.
Bulawayo proportional representative legislator Jasmine Toffa (CCC) was left hospitalised after suspected Zanu PF activists attacked her and left her with broken hands.
Insiza ward 4 CCC candidate Augustine Gumede was forced into hiding, and sought shelter in the bushes as the Zanu PF activists threatened to take his life.
On October 16, Ndlovu was among women who were part of a meeting where polling agents were undergoing training at the home of one of their CCC supporters, only identified as Ncube when a convoy of Zanu PF branded vehicles arrived and blocked a bridge leading to the homestead.
This is the home where the party supporters often get food handouts.
Several CCC party officials, including Nkulumane MP Kucaca Phulu, were part of the people who confronted the Zanu PF activists and asked about their intentions.
They were also concerned that the Zanu PF activists would unleash violence at the shopping centre where one of the CCC supporters ran a shop.
When they went to the shopping centre, they found that shops had been looted and people were being assaulted.
The Zanu PF supporters were shooting in the air as they assaulted the CCC supporters, including Phulu.
They used sticks, stones, open hands, and everything they could lay their hands on.
The CCC supporters tried to retreat, but Zanu PF members pursued them and besieged the Ncube homestead where they destroyed windows, smashed vehicle windscreens and punctured vehicle tyres.
A number of CCC supporters were forced to seek refuge in the bush.
Ndlovu added: “The violence that we witnessed that day is unprecedented.
“So, they (Zanu PF) want to bring another round of Gukurahundi by importing violence into our province?.”
Over 20 000 people died when the late former president Robert Mugabe deployed the North Korean trained fifth brigade into Matabeleland and Midlands regions under the guise of thwarting an insurgency.
The atrocities have been a subject of emotional political debate for years.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has roped in chiefs from the region to resolve the issue.
Many children from the region are without birth records after their parents were massacred during the genocide, which Mugabe only described as a “moment of madness”.
Ndlovu said her community has never known peace since independence in 1980 and the violence brought back gory memories of the Gukurahundi era.
“Since 1980, we have never enjoyed peace. The attack brought back memories of Gukurahundi,” she said.
“During Gukurahundi, you see that rock, soldiers came and killed and harassed people.
“In 2008, we were assaulted (showing stitches on her head) and now, at my age, running naked with only a petticoat. I will never forget this in my life.”
She added: “We thank God we are alive; we never thought we would survive that ordeal.
“Even the team that had travelled from Bulawayo was left stranded after their vehicles were destroyed.”
She said the levels of intimidation ahead of the October 22 by-elections were too high as she expressed fears that the run-up to the 2023 polls would be deadly.
“I don’t even want to imagine how worse it will be next year,” she said.
“The intimidation is so high and if this can happen just for a by-election God knows what will happen to us. People are forced to vote for Zanu PF or face death.
“Some people remain displaced and have not returned to their homes because of the threats of violence.
“My fear is that if such violence can happen in a by-election, what is going to happen next year during the general elections.”
According to the CCC Matabeleland South leadership, there has been little progress in the investigations with no arrests made.
CCC Matabeleland South chairman Solani Moyo insisted that the elections were not free and fair in an interview with The Standard on Friday.
“They destroyed houses and windows in Matobo’s ward 2,” Moyo said.
“In Insiza the police found a stone in a television set that belonged to Gumede.
“They came and took statements, but up to now we have not heard anything from them.
“We know police will not do anything to bring the culprits to book since they report to their bosses in Zanu PF.”
This is not the first time that police have been accused of failing to take action against suspected Zanu PF members that are linked to various acts of terror.
A party member, Abton Mashayanyika, also nicknamed Bhito, a Bishop in the Habakkuk Apostolic Faith Mission, is still walking scot-free after making death threats against CCC leader Nelson Chamisa.
A video of him inciting party supporters to violently assassinate the opposition leader went viral.
A CCC member from Kwekwe, Mboneni Ncube was stabbed to death by suspected Zanu PF activists during a campaign rally addressed by Chamisa ahead of the March by-elections.
The suspects are out on bail.
Several opposition activists including CCC legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole are jailed over allegations that they incited violence at the funeral wake of murdered CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.
Moyo said victims of the violence have been exposed to the vagaries of bad weather conditions, including the rains after rooftops and windows of their houses were destroyed.
“Our members are complaining that the rains are now upon us yet their houses have not been repaired. We reported this to the police,” Moyo said.
“We will not give up on our campaigns.
“The attacks are reminiscent of the Gukurahundi era. It’s better we die than allowing Zanu PF to rule us.
“We are not satisfied with the police conduct.”
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena on Friday said she will check for an update on the investigations.
“We have a challenge with Zesa, I will check when Zesa is restored if dockets are still with us here,’’ said Mangena.
However, human rights groups such as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights called on the police to bring the culprits to nip the violence culture in the bud as the marches towards the 2023 elections.
“To stem the culture of violence, ZLHR calls upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police to urgently and thoroughly investigate the acts of violence that took place in Matobo and all other incidents of political violence across the country and bring perpetrators of violence to account irrespective of their political party affiliation,” the ZLHR said in a statement.
In a statement a fortnight ago, police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the ZRP had received reports of assault from both Zanu PF and CCC supporters and was investigating the allegations.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is seized with reports of violent skirmishes which occurred in Matobo on 16th October 2022,” Nyathi said.
“Reports of assault have been received from both Zanu PF and Citizens Coalition for Change members.
“Investigations are now in progress with a view of accounting for all suspects involved in violence.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police urges political parties and supporters to be responsible and shun all forms of violence.”
No one has been arrested in connection with the Matobo violence since then.
* Not here real name
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum facilitated the coverage of the story.
News in depth: Matobo, Insiza political violence evokes Gukurahundi memories
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