A major showdown looms between the Bulawayo-based Zimbabwe Victims of Organised Violence Trust (ZIVOVT) and government after the non-governmental organisation threatened to erect a memorial monument for victims of Gukurahundi massacres at Balagwe Camp in Matobo district without government approval.
ZIVOVT secretary Bhekithemba Nyathi told NewsDay yesterday Balagwe Camp was not classified as a national shrine and therefore his organisation did not need government approval. But, Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi last week said his ministry had to approve the setting-up of any shrine in the country.
Balagwe Camp gained notoriety for being one of the most fierce concentration camps where people — including women and schoolchildren – were reportedly tortured, raped and killed during the Gukurahundi era of the early 1980s.
An estimated 20 000 people mostly from Midlands and Matabeleland were massacred during the era by a now-disbanded crack army unit, the Fifth Brigade.
It is believed some mass graves still lie uncovered at the site to date. Last week, Mohadi, however, said the ministry had not received communication to the effect that ZIVOVT wanted to set up a monument at Balagwe Camp.
“Balagwe is not a national shrine, so we do not understand how the Ministry of Home Affairs has to give approval. Home Affairs deals with national shrines and monuments,” Nyathi said.
“Despite that, we are aware of the attitude of government towards Gukurahundi issues, so the chances of getting approval are slim.” As a result, Nyathi said, they would go ahead with the project.
“We are proceeding with the project of setting up the monument, whether or not we have received approval from the Home Affairs ministry,” he said. Yesterday, Mohadi evaded questions on the issue and referred questions on Balagwe to the National Museums and Monuments.
“I do not know whether or not Balagwe is a national shrine, but what I know is that all shrines should be registered with the National Museums and Monuments,” he said.
“Why don’t you call them and ask?”
An official from the National Museums and Monuments, who only identified himself as Nyoni, said they were yet to establish whether the Balagwe site was a national shrine.
“We are not aware of the Balagwe site as a national shrine. We only know of a mountain called Zamanyoni, which is said to be situated close to a place called Balagwe,” Nyoni said.