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Don’t drag us into Bhalagwe bombing: Govt

The government says it must not be ‘dragged’ into commenting or condemning the bombing of a memorial plaque in Bhalagwe, Maphisa Matabeleland South, insisting it was never informed of plans to erect the monument there in the first place.

According to the state, erecting a memorial plaque at the site of Gukurahundi mass graves was an unlawful act.

The community-built memorial plaque was erected by Ibhetshu Likazulu, at Bhalagwe Concentration Camp to honour victims of the Gukurahundi genocide last year in October but was bombed by unknown perpetrators this year on January 4.

The case was reported to police but civic organisations in Matabeleland claim investigations are seemingly not progressing well and have also expressed concern that the ‘deafening’ silence on the government’s part spoke volumes of its true attitude towards resolution of Gukurahundi.

The government, unreservedly, said activists conducted the exercise “arbitrarily” without involving the state, therefore it would not involve itself in the issue because there is now problem

“You see those symbols of memorialisation at sites, which by the way, are being arbitrarily chosen by the activists, the erection of those memorials were never done in consultation with the government,” said Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential Communications), George Charamba in an interview with CITE.

Without mincing his words, the presidential spokesperson emphasized the government would not act.

“You don’t drag us in a conversation, into a phenomenon which you yourself have created without having the courtesy of informing the state. There’s a difference between discussing Gukurahundi and trying to raise emotive symbols around it,” he said

Charamba insisted the Gukurahundi matter was led by chiefs, as a collective working with relevant government organs.

“On that one let there be clarity, the government’s policy says this is led by chiefs, not a simple one or two chiefs but chiefs collectively in consultation with the Local government, Home Affairs and with the President’s office,” he said, implying that human rights activists who were running with Gukurahundi wanted to influence the 2023 elections.

“There’s nowhere in the government’s policy where it says activists, who have their own eyes on 2023, will lead the process. It won’t happen and the sooner they realise it the better for everyone these things are being done arbitrarily with a view to making a point and a point that is anti-establishment.”

The presidential spokesperson refused to answer whether it was not worrying that individuals had access to explosives, underlining the bombing of the plaque was not the government’s business.

“Why do you think a non-player has an obligation to address this issue which doesn’t concern them? As the state we are saying we were not consulted, so whatever becomes of that effort following the efforts of self-seeking activists cannot be our business and cannot be our concern,” Charamba said.

“If you decide to raise a tombstone for your own family, why do you think the state must worry about it?”

Instead, Charamba accused Ibhetshu Likazulu of committing a crime by placing the plaque on their own.

“I think a criminal act was committed when an act was done out of the policy and the state was indifferent. You don’t just in a sovereign country with a competent government just go and erect a monument in a community without involving the state.  Where is that done? We are not a lawless society. You don’t cherry pick chiefs of the like mind of the activists and say you have chiefs on your side. It doesn’t work like that and we are talking tough on that one,” he said.

“Let that be very clear, they should never (erect plaques). It’s unlawful. So if anything becomes of that unlawful deed, it can’t be a problem of the state to explain on what basis, it’s an unlawful deed. You take a risk which is an unlawful step, you live with the consequences and deal with those whatever become of it, it’s their business isn’t they feel strongly about it outside state parameters.

“We are working on fixing wounds from early independence and if you listened to the President’s statement on the Unity Accord commemorations, we said the negative forces trying to sort of reactivate the spotlight on the conflict must be kept at bay and we meant it.”

Charamba added: “You can’t expect the police to police an illegality or to account for it when it gets demolished, on what basis? From your little hovel, you stand up to say you are going to raise a monument, as who? Why don’t you win elections and establish your own government where you can do that? You put your squatter camp along Umguza River and it’s raised to the ground by your girlfriend or boyfriend, you expect the police to be on standby to protect you?”

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