Survivors of the Gukurahundi genocide in Matabeleland South have demanded a national apology from the government for its role in the 1980s atrocities that claimed over 20 000 lives in the southern parts of the country.
This came out of a stakeholders meeting held Thursday by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in Maphisa, Matabeleland South which was attended by traditional leaders such as Chief Bidi and Chief Mathema, villagers and representatives from civil society organisations.
The previous day NPRC conducted a safe space meeting for women where they reportedly demanded an apology from the state and a redress on the perceived marginalisation of Matabeleland provinces.
In the session with women, NPRC confirmed they heard harrowing tales of murder, multiple rapes resulting in pregnancies and untraceable sexual transmitted diseases, which victims still suffer from today.
Giving feedback to the stakeholders, NPRC’s general manager for Healing, Reconciliation and Rehabilitation, Cynthia Ncube, said the session revealed the often-untold experiences of Gukurahundi female victims.
“The major issue discussed in our meeting with women was Gukurahundi and they detailed their experiences, elderly women recounting rape cases that resulted in offspring. The women asked who was responsible for Gukurahundi and what crime the people of Matabeleland committed. They asked who deployed the soldiers that killed and tortured people. Some claimed they know the killers and persons who deployed the army while others said they suspected who it was,” Ncube said.
In response, the stakeholders demanded that government should do more than just acknowledging the genocide.
They pointed out that the victims need closure, which can be achieved through a formal apology by the Head of Government and State to the victims of Gukurahundi
Chief Mathema stressed that a national apology was needed.
“If you apologise, the pain may hurt less. The apology would be a first step towards meaningful reconciliation and a healing process. We also need free education for children in all places affected by Gukurahundi,” he said.
ZAPU Southern Region Information Director,Patrick Ndlovu noted that NPRC lacked the component of truth telling and questioned why victims were the only ones who appeared before the commission.
“Where are the perpetrators who killed the people during Gukurahundi? How can the victims reconcile by themselves when perpetrators are not around?” he asked.
Stakeholders also asked how the NPRC would safeguard their documentation since previous files on Gukurahundi – the Chihambakwe and Dumbutshena Commission reports have never been publicised.
The participants called for rapid implementation of recommendations especially the facilitation of documentation, deployment of locals into civil service of note – police, teachers and registrars. Stakeholders also questioned the sincerity of the commission to the process given the conflicting statements from top government officials.
Early this week in a state owned weekly based publication, Zanu PF secretary for Administration, Obert Mpofu expressed reservations on the government issuing an apology for the genocide saying people should let bygones be bygones.
He said: “Let bygones be bygones, if Government is to be dragged into formally apologising, this will open closed wounds which may be catastrophic to the party and government.”
But vice president, Kembo Mohadi under whose office the commission falls has encouraged dialogue on the issue and said people should be free to discuss possible solutions.