Local pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, which has been pushing for the resolution of Gukurahundi, says no amount of state harassment and intimidation will stop their work, instead have vowed to increase their demand for perpetrators of the genocide to face justice.
This comes after the government said it would not condemn the bombing of a memorial plaque that was erected in Bhalagwe, Matobo Matabeleland South, to honour victims of the Gukurahundi genocide.
The community-built memorial plaque was erected by Ibhetshu Likazulu, at Bhalagwe Concentration Camp to honour victims of the genocide last year in October but was bombed by unknown perpetrators this year on January 4.
This is the third memorial plaque to be destroyed on the same site, as the previous two were vandalised.
According to presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, erecting a memorial plaque at the site of Gukurahundi mass graves is an unlawful act.
Commenting on Charamba’s statements, Ibhetshu LikaZulu Secretary General, Mbuso Fuzwayo, said it was important to note that since many progressive voices throughout Zimbabwe and beyond were calling for justice for Gukurahundi genocide victims, the state is desperate and panicking.
“We have taken note of Charamba’s statement on the bombing of the Bhalagwe Concentration Camp memorial plaque. Charamba speaks for President Mnangagwa and his statement is revealing of the ZANU-PF government’s disregard of their victims, both the dead and the surviving. If according to Charamba erecting a plaque in Bhalagwe is unlawful, is bombing it lawful? In any case, was the genocide lawful?” he asked.
“Laws are supposed to protect people, but in Gukurahundi the law did not protect people and it still does not protect them now. The use of explosives to destroy a memorial plaque is a crime that any state will take seriously but in this instance the state is protecting bombers, who are obviously known to it.”
The human rights activist said looking at the extent and judging from Charamba’s comments, the state approves of the plaque’s bombing.
“We note that the government, from Charamba’s statement, is giving a green light to the destruction of memorial plaques. It shivers at the prospect of truth-telling. There is no other route to reconciliation that does not pass through perpetrators telling the truth about their roles in the atrocities. Attempting to bypass the truth and justice cannot deliver healing and reconciliation, and is as such a complete waste of time,” he said.
Fuzwayo vowed that they would continue standing with victimised families and communities as they seek justice and accountability from the Zimbabwean government.
“We wish to commend the affected communities who continue to remember the victims of the genocide through various memorialisation efforts including erecting memorial plaques. Communities must never give up their pursuit for justice, truth-telling and a victim-centred resolution to the Gukurahundi genocide,” said the activist.
“No amount of state harassment and intimidation will silence our voices, instead the cowardly destruction of memorial plaques will increase our demand for the perpetrators of the genocide to face justice.”
He also lamented that once again, victims and survivors of Gukurahundi were on their own without the protection of the law.
“With or without the protection of the law, we shall fight on. We have said it before and we repeat it that we shall not seek permission to remember the dead, especially from the perpetrator state. It is also important for the nation at large and victims’ communities in particular to note that the perpetrator, Zimbabwean state, will not allow police to investigate a serious crime as bombing a site. One wonders the levels of pariah status this regime is driving the country to,” Fuzwayo said.
Fuzwayo added that the government was abusing chiefs to be complicit in its false narrative on Gukurahundi.
“Contrary to what Charamba said, we are not cherry-picking chiefs. Instead, we work with chiefs from the area. The Bhalagwe Concentration Camp is under Chief Fuyane’s jurisdiction and the plaque was officially unveiled to him, and hence it is nonsensical to say chiefs were cherry-picked. Did Charamba want a chief from Zvimba or where to erect the plaque at Fuyane’s area?” he quizzed.
“We are not about to submit to a perpetrator-led resolution of Gukurahundi, which everybody knows is a farce. As Ibhetshu Likazulu we shall continue to stand with the affected communities and call for a transparent and victim-centred approach that will lead to justice and genuine healing.”