Priest ups Gukurahundi pressure

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Lupane Roman Catholic priest Father Marko Mnkandla says he is composing a music album aimed at addressing issues of justice and peace in the Matabeleland region.

Mnkandla was last year arrested alongside National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and charged with convening a Gukurahundi memorial mass at his church without police clearance.

The priest, a music composer in the church, said the project was nearing completion.

“The album that I am working on is called Ilungelo Lokuthula (The Right to Peace), a combination of hymns and sermons and a poem by one of the people who gave a testimony at the church services that we were arrested for,” he said.

“I have written this album, The Right to Peace, because I believe peace is a God-given right.

“Jesus Christ said, ‘I will give you that peace which the world cannot give you’.”

Mnkandla said issues of justice and peace were closer to his heart because he works in communities that bore past injustices and hunger for healing.

“I am a leader among the people in Lupane,” he said.
“The communities that I cover under St Paul’s Mission include Silwane, Jibajiba and Kheswa, where among the church members we have victims of past injustices.

“We have a woman in her ’70s who still carries a Gukurahundi era bullet lodged in her body.

“There is a woman who escaped a fire that consumed her family.

‘We have a woman who uses a stick to walk because her hip joint was dislocated.

‘These are active members of the congregation. Many of them have wounds. It’s a community that needs healing.”

An estimated 20 000 people from Matabeleland and Midlands were killed during the Gukurahundi era in the early 1980s after President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF-dominated government unleashed a crack army unit, Fifth Brigade, to flush out what proved a handful of armed “dissidents” in the two regions.

Mnkandla said he was partly inspired to come up with the album during his incarceration when he was taken from a cell in Lupane at around 10.30pm and driven for over two hours for solitary confinement in Tsholotsho.

“It was a time for me to reflect and think. I gathered a lot of courage. I cannot fear them anymore because I believe in what I am doing. They are afraid of the past and also need some healing. They should not fool themselves and think that they can intimidate people like me.

“They are not gods. People belong to God. I worship a living God. Justice and peace belong together, they are birds of the same feather,” he said.