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‘I saw horrific scenes’

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A Cabinet minister says he saw with his own eyes soldiers rip pregnant women’s stomachs open and foetuses falling out in what he described as unforgettable Gukurahundi horrors that could not be swept under the carpet.

Water Resources Development and Management minister and Lobengula MP (MDC-T), Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, said instead of trying to muzzle the people, Zanu PF leaders should allow survivors of the Gukurahundi massacres to narrate their gory experiences in full before declaring the mass murders a closed chapter.

The minister said as long as residents of Matabeleland and Midlands continued to speak with muffled voices, the country would not heal from the effects of that nightmare which claimed the lives of an estimated 20 000 civilians.

“I saw the Gukurahundi horrors with my own eyes. I saw them tear apart pregnant women’s stomachs and the little thing (foetus) falling down just like that. I saw my relatives being marched into a hut and that hut set on fire,” Nkomo said. “That is where they ended. I saw with my own eyes people being murdered simply because they came from this region and were labelled dissidents.

“There can be no healing without truth-telling. Some of the people who did this are still walking the streets with us. No matter how much Zanu PF wants, there can be no healing without the people of Matabeleland telling their story.”

Zanu PF politicians from the region have recently declared the Gukurahundi issue died with the signing of the Unity

Accord of 1987. Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa said Gukurahundi was a closed chapter.

The claim provoked the anger of local and international human rights organisations who called on government to publicly acknowledge liability and compensate the victims.

A few years ago, President Robert Mugabe described the Gukurahundi era as “a moment of madness”, but ruled out compensation.

Last year, an internationally recognised group, Genocide Watch, classified Zimbabwe’s 1982-87 Gukurahundi massacres as a genocide issue, setting the stage for international intervention.

Genocide Watch chairperson Professor Gregory Stanton said Zanu PF had been trying to sweep the genocide under the carpet. The classification may mean the perpetrators could be prosecuted regardless of the time lapse.

This position was reaffirmed last week at a congress of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Argentina, where more than 300 delegates from around the world gathered at the National University in Buenos Aires.

Stanton told the meeting that dealing with Gukurahundi was essential before real peace could come to Zimbabwe.

“That must include a chance for survivors to face their tormentors in a judicial environment, and a full investigation of events, regardless of who is named among the accused,” Stanton said.

Zimbabwean author and journalist Geoff Hill, who in 2009 became the first African to serve on the panel of the association’s advisory council, told the congress lessons from Gukurahundi were especially relevant to the killings now taking place in Sudan where civilians were reportedly being hunted down and butchered in the Nuba Mountains.

He said the Gukurahundi killings were of serious interest “because they demonstrate how silence by the international community leads to massacres”.

“The gun is not the deadliest weapon. Sadly, the real danger lies in the silence because it allows the slaughter to continue, and this was our crime during Gukurahundi,” said Hill.

He, however, ruled out possibilities of taking the matter to the International Criminal Court because Zimbabwe was not a member of the body.

Recently, a parliamentary portfolio committee had several of its outreach meetings on the Human Rights Commission Bill disrupted by rowdy groups after some participants suggested the commission be given authority to investigate matters dating back to the Gukurahundi issue.

DO YOU HAVE YOUR GUKURAHUNDI STORY TO TELL? CONTACT THE EDITOR: bmangwende@newsday.co.zw

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