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Gukurahundi; forty years later

Twitter is ablaze with tweets on Gukurahundi. #Shona has actually been trending for hours now. Should the Shona be blamed for Mugabe’s atrocities?

In 1982, the late president of Zimbabwe Robert G. Mugabe, then Prime Minister and leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), launched his plan to turn Zimbabwe into a one-party state. Mugabe sent the Fifth Brigade, called Gukurahundi, into Matebeleland to exterminate “dissidents.” What arguably began as an assault to pacify Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) electoral base quickly degenerated into a five-year ethnic cleansing spree against the Ndebele minority. By December 1987, according to the International Association of Genocide Scholars, approximately 20,000 people had been killed in what is called, ‘Gukurahundi’ meaning the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.

Gukurahundi was very unfortunate, innocent people were murdered just because of their ethnicity. Today, forty years later, there remains a burning bridge between the Shona-speaking and Ndebele-speaking people in Zimbabwe. The Ndebele harbour resentment towards the Shona, is it justified? Was it the Shona who were perpetrators of the violence against the Ndebele? What good can come out of a tribal war?

The British government were quite aware of the massacre taking place in the Matebeleland, yet kept mum, can we not start there with the blame game?

The current president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mngangagwa was the country’s first Minister of State Security (1980-1988). Mnangagwa oversaw the Central Intelligence Organisation which fed the Fifth Brigade intelligence in the Gukurahundi massacres. Can he also be held accountable?

How about the Fifth Brigade members and ZANU PF, are they not the perfect candidates to put the blame on?

Interestingly enough, one might argue that Gukurahunde was revenge for the treatment of the Shona (Rozvi Empire) by South Africa-born, Founder of the Ndebele kingdom, Mzilikazi who moved from KwaZulu-Natal and carved out a territory for himself by fighting and dispossessing the local Shona in the 1800s. Was this perhaps the beginning of the tribal war? Perhaps not, but, where is it taking the Zimbabwean people?

It is also alleged that the former ZIPRA elements (ZAPU military wing) attacked civilian areas in Zvishavane and Kadoma in 1980 soon after independence. It seemed ZIPRA had a hidden arms cache. There were major outbreaks of violence carried out by ZIPRA against the civilian population which are never spoken about.

Then there was the Entumbane Uprising in Bulawayo were Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) attacked the new Zimbabwe National Army. Several analysts comment on the irony that Mugabe and ZANU–PF were saved from a major rebellion by white-led ex-Rhodesian troops. The battle was the RAR’s last; its personnel were reassigned to other units when it was disbanded later in 1981. The rebellion’s defeat, meanwhile, prompted mass desertions by ZIPRA guerrillas fearing retribution from the Mugabe administration. Indeed, the uprising partially fuelled Mugabe’s bloody Gukurahundi campaign against Matabeleland later in the 1980s. Wikipedia

Whether Gukurahundi was retribution or unprovoked, the fact still remains that a wrong was made. How to right that wrong is the issue now. Many are living in trauma because of the massacre. The effects can not be ignored. How does the hatred between the Shona and the Ndebele benefit a poverty-stricken Zimbabwe? Perhaps there’s a need for talks between the ruling ZANU PF and ZAPU. Surely, true reconciliation is possible.

Article written by Constance van Niekerk, Editor of Afrique Beat News. Email: info.afriquebeat@gmail.com

About Constance van Niekerk

Constance van Niekerk, (Connie V) is a creative writer, poet, music lover, spoken word artist, freelance writer, blogger and educator. She has contributed to several anthologies and published her own collection, Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection available for purchase on all Amazon Stores Worldwide. Follow her on Twitter : @convanniekerk Connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.


2 thoughts on “Gukurahundi; forty years later

  1. Good post, Connie. This history is not even known here.

    Liked by 2 people

    Posted by Mister Bump UK | Jan 24, 2022, 10:57

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