Third Bhalagwe memorial plaque erected

The third memorial plaque to honour the victims of the Gukurahundi genocide has been erected at Bhalagwe in Maphisa, Matabeleland South after suspected state agents vandalised the two plaques that were erected on separate occasions earlier this year.

Bhalagwe is the Gukurahundi flashpoint where thousands were reportedly thrown into the disused Antelope Mine at the height of the massacres.

The site was also a concentration camp for the notorious North Korean trained Fifth Brigade operations in that area.

Just a short distance from the mine, there is a fenced graveyard where there are two mass graves for Gukurahundi victims.

The latest plaque was erected during a memorial service which was attended by traditional leaders and the Maphisa community led by Ibhetshu LikaZulu.  

The event was part of the Asakhe Film Festival which ran under the theme “The Power of Memory”.

Chiefs from Matabeleland who attended the memorial service condemned the vandalism of the plaques, citing that such conduct delayed the healing process for the affected victims.  

Addressing the delegation, Chief Khulumani Mathema of Gwanda called out some chiefs from the region for failing the affected communities and pushing for justice.

He said trying to solve Gukurahundi issues through talks has failed hence people should resort to action.

Chief Mathema

“There are issues that need to be addressed for Gukurahundi to be solved. When the National Chiefs Council was first formulated, the intention was to allow free dialogue on the effects of the massacres,” Chief Mathema said.

“What’s disappointing is that some Chiefs from affected areas are not participating nor are they pushing for these dialogues. They have let people who are not affected take the lead which defeats the whole purpose.”

Chief Mathema added that for as long as the perpetrators do not come to the fore and admit wrongdoing, there shall be no resolution of the matter.

Chief Fuyana of Maphisa, expressed gratitude for the persistence of the community who have not given up on replacing the plaques each time they got stolen.

He called on intellectuals to come together with locals and document the history of the Gukurahundi massacres.

Chief Fuyana

“We need to document our own history, no one should tell our story on our behalf. Such information is vital for the young generation as it will show them where we come from, where we are and where we are going,” Chief Fuyana said.

Chief Dakamela, who was also present at the memorial, said the constant vandalism of the plaques is a disruption of the healing process.

Chief Dakamela

“We are all affected by Gukurahundi in various ways. Some were affected directly and others indirectly so at the end of the day we grieve differently. What is important is to acknowledge the significance of this plaque and treat it with the respect it deserves to allow the affected people to heal,” Chief Dakamela said.

Reverend Ndlovu of Brethren in Christ Church highlighted that killing people would never silence them as their spirits will seek justice.

“In the Bible, Cain killed Abel and the matter was not put to rest until the former was called out for his evil deed. Pharoah killed all the firstborns to protect his throne but he died eventually. No one kills innocent people and gets away with it, God fights the battles of his people and exposes those who perpetuate evil,” he said.

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