View from Up Here: Gukurahundi Genocide: An Open Wound Part 1

Gukurahundi is a thorny issue for our leaders. They do not want to talk about it, neither do they want it discussed. The objective is to relegate it to the dustbins of history. But can a nation move on without healing, especially after such heinous atrocities in which according to CCJPZ, an estimated 20 000 (conservative number) lives were unnecessarily and brutally lost? We should not let this issue die. Rumi (1207 – 1273), a Persian poet once wrote, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
National healing starts with a simple acknowledgment.

Trudy Govier, in her article; What is Acknowledgement and Why is it Important? Joseph Montville, director of a program on preventive diplomacy, claims that acknowledgement of wrongdoing, often expressed through formal apology, is profoundly important for the healing of victims and their reconciliation with perpetrators. Referring to the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Michael Ignatieff argues that if President Tudjman of Croatia had officially apologized to the Serbs, the apology would have served to acknowledge past wrongdoing and suffering and announce a break from it. In her recent work, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness, Martha Minow also emphasizes the importance of acknowledgement of past wrongs, when discussing trials, truth commissions, reparations, and apologies as different ways of responding to and attempting to recover from gross human rights violations.
The ZANU PF government has instead denied the gukurahundi atrocities. Robert Mugabe, according to MacDonald Dzirutwe in his article Mugabe’s legacy: thousands killed in ‘rain that washes away the chaff’, denied these atrocities describing them as “fabrications of the western media” and later simply referred to the period as “moment of madness” blaming what he described as “renegade soldiers” Even the so-called new dispensation under the leadership of the infamous crocodile Emmerson Mnangagwa, has remained quiet about the issue. Mnangagwa and crew never attempted to acknowledge that Gukurahundi happened and that it was wrong. This has worsened the feeling of bitterness among the Ndebele people. And they are right to feel that way. In fact, it has widened the rift between the Shona and the Ndebele. There is no healing. There is no unity. It is a time-bomb ticking.

I totally agree with Marta Cullberg Weston, who in her article, “A psychosocial Model of Healing from The Traumas of Ethnic Cleansing: The Case of Bosnia” when she states that “Traumatic events rob people of their sense of control, connection, and meaning in life.  .. For many people, post-traumatic stress reactions eventually subside as time gives some distance from the war experiences and for the grieving of losses. In some cases, however, the traumatic imprint is so strong that the grieving process is aborted, and memories keep impinging on the person at all times, in essence making the past conquer the present. We often then talk about PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. This permanent imprint leads to generational trauma as is the case of the First Nations in the present-day Canada. The people of Matebeleland have been set to suffer generationally due to the unmitigated trauma. The most painful part is that the perpetrators are the ones in power. They are the ones who are supposed to initiate the healing process. Yet nothing comes from them. They are making sure that the Ndebele people will suffer under the darkness of the wrap put over the issue of Gukurahundi.

In the same article, Marta Cullberg Weston discusses betrayal and Pervasive losses as some of the deadly consequences of ethnic cleansing. Just as in the case of Rwanda, where neighbors turned against neighbors, I believe the Ndebele people feel the same about the Shona people. Betrayals such as these threaten one’s core beliefs and lead to an existential crisis and a loss of trust in humanity. Just as in Bosnia, in Matebeleland, “many people also experienced an intense sense of humiliation when they were forced to live as refugees or as internally displaced persons in squalid conditions. They were robbed of all their life belongings and savings and were dependent on others for survival.”

While the genocide was going on, people struggled to survive; but as it finally came to an end, people were faced with their severe losses. Nearly every family had lost some members and the grieving process for them became acute when life was supposed to “go back to normal.” Indeed, there was no normal life to go back to. This analysis of the Rwanda and Bosnia genocides is a mirror reflection of the Gukurahundi perpetrated by ZANU PF on the innocent Ndebele people.

People of Matebeleland have suffered, not only human lives lost, and livelihood destroyed, but also years of both social and infrastructural development. I whole heartedly call upon people of Zimbabwe to take this upon us to keep talking about gukurahundi so that the next generation will know about it. When conditions allow, they will fight for justice. Let us remember that the victims of a genocide not only lose all their possessions, they also lose their bearings. (Marta Cullberg Weston)

Watch for part 2.

By Peter Muzira.

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