‘Women bore the brunt during Gukurahundi’

Female victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities, Tuesday, shared harrowing tales of the abuse they suffered under the Fifth Brigade soldiers during a crackdown in in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

Human rights groups says at least 20 000 people were massacred by the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade while thousands of people from the region were displaced during the operation former president Robert Mugabe described as a moment of madness.

Speaking during the annual Gukurahundi commemorations organised by Ibhetshu likaZulu, a Bulawayo based pressure group, some of the victims shared how they were beaten, tortured and raped by the ‘Gukurahundist’ soldiers.

Contributing to the discussion, political commentator and activist, Effie Ncube said usually people focused on one kind of violence that was murder yet there other other forms of abuse that took place.

“The genocide is not only about the dead but we must put our gender lenses, let the brain and mind understand how difficult it was for women in that Gukurahundi situation. When danger comes, it’s easy for a man to escape and run away with others but for a woman, she has to stay at home and defend or look after the children, then that’s when she falls prey to attacks,” he said.

Ncube said some women who went through Gukurahundi, it my be mothers or grandmothers who raised their children were raped and abused.

“One of the main features that took place during Gukurahundi was rape and sexual violence. We must be aware that Gukurahundi was gendered as well, many women died and many women disappeared. Many women were raped and terrible acts committed on them including some young girls at that time,” he said.

“We must understand that when talking about Gukurahundi, we are not talking about the murder of people. We talk about people who are still missing, who we are still looking for today. We talk about our sisters who were raped and  faced terrible atrocities. We are talking about children born out of rape.”

Ncube highlighted that raising children born our of rape was difficult for women. “This is very important, consider this – a woman is beaten, raped then you have to raise a child who is a result of rape, instead of seeing a child to love, you see the man who raped you – the picture of Gukurahundi. You now see how painful Gukurahundi is for people who experienced it,” Ncube said.

He emphasised that despite the pain caused, the perpetrators continued going back to people asking for their votes.

“They come back seeking your mandate to continue in power. They will come in 2023 – go to Tsholotsho, go to Bhalagwe then you people agree with them but in December come here to cry.  When it comes to elections, be angry and take away the power from perpetrators. As people we must insist on the centrality of victims and survivors, never allow perpetrators to control and direct how Gukurahundi must be solved,” Ncube said.

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