Police block Gukurahundi commemorations in Byo

and arrest three participants

Police in Bulawayo once again blocked the Gukurahundi commemorations organised by a local pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu and arrested three individuals who were part of the proceedings.

The Gukurahundi commemorations, which are celebrated on Unity Day on December 22, were supposed to start off with a march from the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Statue to Stanley Hall in Makokoba.

Ibhetshu LikaZulu regards December 22 as the day the genocide ended.

But as people were gathering at the statue, police officers descended at the spot and ordered them to disperse.

Even passers-by were dispersed by the police, who also threatened to arrest the journalists covering the proceedings.

The police then arrested Ibhetshu LikaZulu’s Vice Chairperson, Thamsanqa Ncube and member, Melusi ‘Coltart’ Nyathi, and Samukeliso Tshuma, leader of The Girls Table organisation.

Mbuso Fuzwayo, Secretary General of Ibhetshu LikaZulu, decried the State’s eagerness to silence and prevent victims of Gukurahundi from speaking out.

“We believe December 22 is an important day that marks the end of the genocide after over 20 000 people were killed, where women and children were butchered, murdered and others raped. This is an important day to those who survived to remember those who died and how this unity came about,” he said after the police had barred the event.

Fuzwayo, who stated that they did not require permission from police to host the genocide commemorations, lamented the State’s failure to fulfil its promises to solve Gukurahundi.

“As Ibhetshu, we were intending to mark the memory of survivors by having this march, but the government of Zimbabwe through the police stopped us. A lot of people who were passing by were harassed including those within the Joshua Nkomo statue vicinity,” he said, adding he was still waiting for information to hear the exact charge his three colleagues were charged with.

However, Fuzwayo said the arrests will not dent the commemorations from taking place.

“Some activities happening outside town such as in Tsholotsho. We will still commemorate the day if they continue to stop us, we will do a belated event. If they think they can suppress the day or promote the perpetrator’s misleading narrative, it is unfortunate for them,” Fuzwayo said.

“Victims have to be given room to share experience and say what they feel about the day. This is what we are going to do – give space and room for the victims because the perpetrator has all the space in public media to take a lead while denying victims.”

Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) president, Benon Ncube, concurred that the “conduct and action by the government of Zimbabwe at a day when it claims to be celebrating Unity Day was disappointing.”

“It’s now a day they infringed on the rights of Zimbabweans, to make matters worse this is the day when people are commemorating the lives lost during the Gukurahundi genocide, lives which the Zimbabwean government took away,” he said.

“The police action deletes what the government and Emmerson (Mnangagwa) says on trying to find closure for the victims. If he goes on to arrest and oppress the people that are still living, it is still the same as what he did back then when he was killing them.”

Executive Director of the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, Blessing Ivan Vava, who came from Harare to commemorate the day, described the police actions as barbaric.

“It shows an unrepentant police force that does not respect the freedom of expression and association. It also signifies a dark epoch in our country’s history. We are supposed to be celebrating unity, recognising Gukurahundi that happened in the 1980s and what we saw is actually reminder of the sad events in the history,” he said.

Vava added as civic society, their plea especially to the police and president, was not to be partisan.

“You should be ashamed of your actions. This is the time to take responsibility of the actions of your party and you should be giving victims a voice and space for them to remember their loved ones. It  can’t be Unity Day when we don’t speak of the history of the sad events that we saw in the 1980s,” he said.

Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), Deputy Organiser, Paul Sindamanzi said barring the genocide event was a setback that illustrated police and Zanu PF are afraid of telling people the truth of what transpired during the genocide.

“That’s why they are sending these young police to disperse our grievances. They are afraid of us telling the world the truth about the genocide, they want to hide truth and that must be told,” he said.

MRP Matabeleland North Provincial Chairperson, Thembisani ‘Folongatshi’ Mpofu, said  people from Matabeleland continue to be marginalised.

“It shows the Unity Day has nothing to do with us people of Mthwakazi. It never worked for us, we have never tasted the fruits of the Unity Day, therefore we don’t recognise it. What the police did  is painful. This is why we continue to see the marginalisation of Matabeleland by the government and which doesn’t respect our rights but oppresses us,” he said.

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