A Gukurahundi memorial plaque erected by Bulawayo based pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, Monday, in Silobela, Midlands, to replace a similar one which was stolen in June by suspected state agents has also gone missing.
This incident has caused the pressure group to accuse the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government of having a sinister motive – that of wanting to hide the fact that Gukurahundi massacres also took place in Midlands.
The plaque was erected in memory of 11 men who were abducted by the Fifth Brigade army during the height of the Gukurahundi atrocities in January 1985.
In May, another similar plaque that was unveiled by Chief Fuyane at Bhalagwe, Matabeleland South was also stolen.
The second memorial plaque was unveiled during Monday’s commemoration of the United Nations Day of the victim of enforced disappearances.
However, barely two days later, the plaque has been stolen once again.
“There was a promise to talk about the genocide and issues of Gukurahundi memorialisation were presented to the chiefs who also presented this to (President) Emmerson (Mnangagwa). The issue of the plaque that has also disappeared is disconcerting, more so for the victims who have to deal with blow after blow,” said Ibhetshu LikaZulu Secretary-General, Mbuso Fuzwayo in an interview with CITE.
Fuzwayo pointed out that the theft is a sign that President Mnangagwa’s government was trying to erase the memory that the massacres also happened in Midlands.
“They are trying, by all means, to separate Midlands from the entirety of Matabeleland, creating Midlands as a place where the genocide did not occur,” he said.
After President Mnangagwa’s last meeting with chiefs at the Bulawayo State House, eyebrows were raised when the fresh plan to address Gukurahundi excluded chiefs from the Midlands province and their absence at that gathering did not go down well with others.
“If you go and erect a plaque in Midlands, the question is how will the government take it, so the destruction of the plaque can be linked to fact that the state does not want Midlands to be participant in solving the genocide. They are trying to hide, not wanting to be exposed, which is why they are trying to erase that memory – trying not to make Midlands part of the affected communities. I think the issue of Midlands and the destruction speaks to that,” Fuzwayo declared.
He added that this incident buttressed sentiments that the government was not ready to be held accountable for the mass killings.
“This tells us they are not ready. If they are unwilling to engage on the subject, honestly, effectively it means we are not ready as a country to deal with Gukurahundi and memorialisation, Fuzwayo said.
Critical analyst Khanyile Mlotshwa said the whole matter was ironic as the continued vandalisation of memorial plaques was a sign that authorities were not committed to addressing the genocide.
“It’s quite difficult because Gukurahundi was a crime against humanity and over the years, we saw the criminalisation of talking about the genocide, now the continued vandalisation of memorial plaques by whoever is doing so is a continuation of that crime against humanity.
“People are violated as they try to memoralise or keep in memory their loved ones and the whole thing is hard to make sense. On the other hand, the government is saying ‘talk freely’ but when people express themselves, we see the vandalisation. This could be the government is talking in forked tongues, saying something but doing something else.”