The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) has urged the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to launch an investigation into the destruction of the Gukurahundi memorial plaque at Bhalagwe, Matabeleland South and hold the perpetrators accountable.
This comes at a time when the second memorial plaque which was erected by Ibhetshu Likazulu, a local pressure group at Bhalagwe, last week was stolen.
The first one erected in 2019 was destroyed by suspected security agents.
Ibhetshu LikaZulu held a memorial service last week which was attended by traditional leaders from Matabeleland South, politicians and other stakeholders.
A plaque was erected during the service but hardly a day later it had vanished.
In a statement, Monday, NTJWG said the theft is an attack on the memory of the 20 000 people who lost their lives during Gukurahundi.
“The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) notes with concern that a plaque that was unveiled at the Bhalagwe mass grave site in Kezi, Matabeleland South Province on 25 May 2021 was stolen,” read the statement.
NTJWG said these incidents are indicative of the intolerance and deliberate effort to rewrite history by erasing the lived experiences of victims and survivors.
“This theft is particularly concerning as it is the second incident of this nature with the first having occurred in 2018 when a similar plaque at Bhalagwe was destroyed. Back then, villagers consisting of victims, survivors, and families of victims of Gukurahundi atrocities were threatened and warned against participating in erecting similar structures,” the group said.
They added that memorial sites and structures are a key part of truth recovery and preservation through memorialisation initiatives.
“Given Zimbabwe’s history of violence and conflict, memorialisation is an urgent and pertinent issue that must be prioritized. Gukurahundi is part of Zimbabwe’s history which, though heinous, must not be forgotten,” said the group.
They added that the plaques such as the one unveiled at Bhalagwe are important reminders of what happened in the past which must fill every Zimbabwean with a desire to play their part to guarantee non-recurrence of human rights violations such as Gukurahundi.
“Therefore, this theft is an unacceptable act that undermines the nation’s efforts to realize national peace, reconciliation, and healing and it must not go unpunished.”
“The NTJWG, therefore, stands with the people of Kezi, Ibhetshu Likazulu and other victims of Gukurahundi in condemning this act and calls on all Zimbabweans to take a stand against the destruction of memorial sites and structures,” read the statement.
The group also called on the NPRC to provide the people of Kezi with counselling services and any other necessary support as this incident has likely re-traumatised them.