‘Victims of political violence must be allowed to speak out’

A civil rights activist, Dumisani Mpofu, says there is a deliberate ploy from the country`s political elite to block victims of the country`s atrocities to speak out on their experiences.

Zimbabweans have gone through several episodes of state-sponsored violence ranging from the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities to political violence and enforced abductions.

In all these events, some of the victims and survivors who have spoken out have faced a backlash from the state security apparatus.

Speaking on the Gukurahundi atrocities – which claimed more than 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands – at a national indaba on enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe organised by Habbakuk Trust last week, Mpofu said the victims are willing to speak but the political elite has often muzzled any talk about the atrocities with artistic expression on the genocide being blocked or banned.

“The victims are prepared to tell their story but the elite want to represent the people and say people are afraid to tell their stories. We need to do counselling for the elite,” said Mpofu.

Several events meant to commemorate victims of state-sponsored violence have in the past been blocked.

Mpofu said the attitude exhibited by those in power is not encouraging for victims to speak out against transgressions.

“I started recording and interviewing people on Gukurahundi in 1991. One of the non-constituency MPs I spoke to kept on saying he won’t answer the Gukurahundi issue because it will disturb unity.

“When I look at him now l see him fitting in the group of elite who decided not to talk about Gukurahundi,’ he said.

He insisted there should be a Gukurahundi desk at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in America because of the gravity of genocide.

The museum in Washington DC serves as a living memorial to the Holocaust, one of the worst tragedies the world has ever seen.

“What makes Gukurahundi unique is because it has its own international narrative that has never spoken about.

“If you visit the Holocaust you will discover that there is a lot of information about atrocities and genocides that happened throughout the world, but Gukurahundi is missing.”

He said there are other atrocities which were not as critical as Gukurahundi are featured at the museum.

“There is the Mozambique desk, Democratic Republic of Congo desk is there. Some desks representing a little number as 200 atrocities are there but a desk of 20 000 atrocities is not there,” said Mpofu.

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