Zimbabwe has an unspoken, unacknowledged past that has been haunting the country since 1982. Gross human rights violations and unimaginable brutality were committed by state agents in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces of Zimbabwe where the Ndebele tribe lives, known as Gukurahundi.
The wounds of this universally condemned post-independence atrocity which human rights groups estimated claimed over 20 000 sacred lives, have smouldered in Zimbabwe, manifesting by a divided society in which one tribe sees itself as second-class citizens and struggles with emotional and physical trauma.
The massacres took place in the early 1980s but for decades were discussed only in muffled tones. Those who were at the centre, or who fomented it in a bid to amass absolute control of the newborn state have at various times described the chapter as a ‘moment of madness’, but have never owned up to it or apologised for it, regardless of there being thousands of lives who to this day are plagued by that dark cloud.
Addressing gatherers at a Churches Convergence on Peace (CCOP) workshop at Mutawatawa Rural District in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe last Friday, National Peace and Reconciliation Commissioner (NPRC) Dr Geofrey T. Chada said positive peace, healing and reconciliation approaches are needed to avoid a repetition of such sad pasts as old as Gukurahundi, and as recent as Murambatsvina Cleanup Exercise and the 2008 political violence.
Dr Chada, who as NPRC earlier this year rolled out public hearings to address past human rights abuses, and issue of the 1980s mass killings in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South, and also attended the Gukurahundi documentary premiere recently, agonisingly said that what happened was rotten and that forgiveness is key.
“Rotten cases cropped up in Matebeleland. We need to forgive each other. If we don’t, nothing good will ever come out of this. Last weekend we went to watch the Gukurahundi documentary. We thanked them (the producers) for teaching us. When we come back, we will have the correct account of what happened, so we know how to address it.”
In Bulawayo and Matabeleland North, the NPRC hearings were, however, rattled by activists, who called on the government to discharge the Chihambakwe commission of inquiry report, which contains findings of an investigation into Gukurahundi.
Dr Chada, who had a near-physical altercation with one anguished family who accused the NPRC as executioners of Gukurahundi during the hearings, mirrored on some of the findings they got from the hearings.
In one case, a man was forced to stare as state agents rapped her daughter upon warnings that swaying his focus sideways would cost him his dear life, while in another a man, said that he rode out the axe because the soldiers traded his life in return to obtaining sexual services from his wife ad arbitrium, an act that literally turned her into a brigade prostitute.
In another inquiry, a man blurted out that he watched the soldiers disembowel her pregnant sister alive, landing the poor foetus on the ground.
Struck with these grim truths that were precipitated by the lack of national integration, Dr Chada urged the Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe natives to uphold peace as instigating violence deprives others of existence.
“President Mnangagwa preaches peace wherever he goes. If he is lying, he would have forgotten to emphasise it sometimes. If all leaders could embrace the same message, for peace and harmony is like oxygen, it’s given freely to all of us. Only God and God alone can deny you that access to that oxygen because it’s his. Now with this violence, we are instigating, we’re depriving others of breathing the oxygen that God gives us.”
He said that peace is the linchpin of development without which expansion is unattainable.
“Peace is the foundation of development, without which there is no development. If you go to Harare right now there is no peace. Commodities are becoming expensive and scarce. Many as I am speaking are in a fuel queue. They are not at work. There is no cooking oil, there is no peace. There is no development.”
Besides Gukurahundi, NPRC also announced they will delve into “Operation Murambatsvina”, a month-long clean-up campaign translated as operation drive out the filth launched by the government in May 2005 after a disputed March 31 parliamentary poll.
The Operation which saw the government viciously cracking down on vendors and illegal settlers in metropolitan centres, leaving behind over 200 000 people homeless and deprived over a million of their sole means of survival, was justified as a program to enforce City bylaws to halt allegedly illegal activities and realise high standard of cleanliness in major cities and towns throughout the country.
Independent human rights groups, however, contended that this was a political retribution on the urban voters who had overwhelmingly voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change(MDC).
“Murambatsvina destroyed many people’s wealth, people who had built beautiful houses for themselves. Some had flourishing businesses. Most of them never recovered to this day. These are some of the issues we will deal with,” said Chada.
NPRC was established under Sections 251 to 253 of the Constitution to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation, to develop programmes to promote national healing, unity and peaceful conflict resolution. The commission, however, commenced its tasks in January 2018, when President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill (NPRC) into law.
Although the commission was set up through public voting and presidential appointment, Dr Chada believes that it was chosen by God who he said proudly terms himself the Prince of Peace.
“God gave us (NPRC) this power. We don’t say we were chosen by the people, we were chosen by God to bring peace, teach people how we can be peaceful. If you continue to be delighted about being peacefulness, we will help you with all we can.”
The doctor conclusively said as NPRC they are building a plank where people can have truthful and healthy dialogues about the tragedies that transpired and that they are engaging the church in the process.
Speaking at the same event, CCOP organiser, peace and justice crusader and Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) leader Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, as has always been his stance, publicly admonished politicians who employ hate speech and derogatory slogans, saying such conducts incites political violence.
Referencing to a scripture from the Book of Kings in which an ageing David instructed his heir Solomon to deliver justice to Joab who has murdered innocent lives in the times of peace, Bishop Magaya said;
“God doesn’t like war but he can understand if you shed blood under those circumstances. However, if you shed blood after the war, let me warn you today, justice will catch up with you, mark my words. To those who are pursuing violence in these peaceful times we have, God is warning that you will be met with justice.”
The bishop went further and said there are three liquids that matter in the lives of humanity; tears, sweat and blood and that no one should make people shed these liquids.
And as he has always been doing since he surfaced on the public arena, the Bishop called upon hooligan politicians to repent, and urged them to be sincere, sensitive and pursue selfless-ness politics.
The Churches Convergence on Peace Mutawatawa edition, like in any other areas, was attended by chiefs, village heads, counsellors, ZRP, ZPC, churches, teachers and representatives from societal groups of special interests.
The overall purpose of the seminar was to enhance a community-based discourse on tolerating divergence views, conflict resolution, healing, reconciliation, and eventually put in place a local peace committee that will see the maintenance of the aforementioned objectives.
CCOP is an ecumenical initiative with the comprehensive aim of contributing to a violence-free atmosphere for sustainable peace in the pre-and post-electoral context and is a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD), Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).
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