HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsA history of hate: Why we need to resolve Gukurahundi now

A history of hate: Why we need to resolve Gukurahundi now


Last week, a video emerged of police roughing up Zapu leader, Dumiso Dabengwa as he was on his way to Gukurahundi commemorations at Bhalagwe, an infamous detention centre during the 1980s in Matabeleland South.


What made the video even more poignant was that Dabengwa is a former Home Affairs minister and was being tormented by his former subordinates, but that is a story for another day.

How long this country — or at least those in officialdom — will pretend that Gukurahundi did not happen, is anybody’s guess, but it is holding the nation back, as a time has come for us to deal with that issue and leave it in the past.

The government is at the forefront of leading this denialism, which fosters bitterness and anger among those who suffered the atrocities.

As one philosopher said: “If you hide a people’s history, you teach them to hate,” and it is no surprise that Zanu PF struggles in Matabeleland.

The sooner the government concedes and allows people in Matabeleland to mourn their deceased, the sooner a national healing and building process can begin in earnest, not this situation where others feel they are excluded from the national cake.

It is for this reason that, no matter how small, calls for devolution and secessionism have been loudest in one part of the country, as there are some that do not feel a part of Zimbabwe because of their unacknowledged past.

Instead of dismissing them and arresting their leaders, the government should now begin a national dialogue to encompass the whole country and that way the nation can move forward.

The bitterness and anger felt by some people in Matabeleland can never be wished away and failure to solve it now is a guarantee that there shall be a radical generation in future, who will not be guided by facts, but rather by emotion, which could prove to be the flint that ignites the powder keg.

There are many theories to the Gukurahundi, from Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s unhelpful statement that it was a Western conspiracy to claims that it was meant to stop banditry, that it was a genocide and outright denialism.

I am not going to belabour the point by trying to prove which theory is true and which is not, but rather, the government should now be called on to release the Justice Enoch Dumbutshena and the Justice Simplicius Chihambakwe commissions of inquiry reports that investigated the genesis of the killings.

These are not definitive reports, but will help Zimbabweans have an appreciation of what happened during those dark days and it could open the door for nation-building.

By releasing these reports, the government will be showing the people of Zimbabwe an important glimpse into the past, which the nation can rally around and do everything in it its power not to repeat in future.

Germany and Japan, for example, have terrible histories, and instead of shying away from them, have been very open and embraced their past and this has allowed them to build their countries to what they are today.

South Africa also led the way with the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s hearings into apartheid.

These are not foolproof methods, but what they do is they shine the light in dark corners, leading to forgiveness and closure for the victims.

An open dialogue about Gukurahundi is not necessarily about finger pointing and blame apportioning, but rather it allows the victims to have closure and the perpetrators to seek forgiveness, as we can only speculate what burdens they carry on their consciences.

Zanu PF and its supporters have often accused their opponents of using the massacres for political gain, a claim I find quite ludicrous, as it is up to the people to use their history in any manner they want.

To this day, we are bombarded by truth, fiction and propaganda on how Zanu and Zapu waged the war of independence and nobody begrudges them for that.

Thus, the victims of Gukurahundi can choose how they appropriate their history and that is not the government’s business.

At the funeral of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, President Robert Mugabe described the massacres as a “moment of madness”, hardly an acknowledgement nor an apology, but this should have opened the door for dialogue on the matter, but as before, it proved to be a false dawn and the matter was swept under the carpet.

Authorities are approaching the Gukurahundi issue with an ostrich head-in-the-sand mentality, hoping that it will go away, but the reality is that it will stay with us forever, as it is an indelible part of our history.

A few friends have suggested that it is high time the people of Matabeleland let go of Gukurahundi and looked to the future, but there is no way we can even consider the future without resolving our past.

Our past is very much a part of our present as it is a part of our future, this is why Zanu PF can never tire of telling us how it won the war of independence.

It is hypocrisy of the highest order that Zanu PF can commemorate the killings of Nyadzonia, Chimoio and other places, when it does not allow Zimbabweans to remember the slain of Bhalagwe.

There is a lot of bitterness in the country and its genesis is because of our unresolved past.

Just as much as we remember those who were killed during the liberation struggle, those that want to commemorate the Gukurahundi massacres should be allowed to do so unmolested.

While the police and the State may have thought that barring Dabengwa was the best thing to do, the reality is that they have given publicity to an event that was most likely going to pass without much media spotlight or a fuss.

By blocking the commemoration, the police are only feeding into pockets of resistance, which in future will morph into radicalism to the country’s detriment.

Hiding the dark side of our country’s history does not mean it will go away, it only means we are nurturing hate, resentment and anger.

lFeedback: nmatshazi@southerneye.co.zw

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  1. Very shameful period indeed. But our shameful past, indeed the shameful past of the matabeleland area, does not only go as far back as gukurahundi. It goes to the arrival of the nguni and of mzilikazi’s people, and the raids they conducted to loot food and cattle and women from locals over many decades; their refusal to accept that they are not the real owners of this country as exemplified by their disdain for black/shona policemen in the 1896-7 uprisings’ reports; and their mistaken belief that, because whites named the western area of the country matabeleland, it therefore follows that it is owned by the ndebele. It is the false history of the land written for us by colonialists that we should thrown away. We should credit the ownership of the country rightfully to the original inhabitants, namely kalanga, nambya, tonga, venda, karanga, korekore, buja, ndawu, maungwe, manyika and barwe; not the ndebele and shona/zezuru inventions of the white colonisers. Up till now languages like karanga, buja, korekore and manyika are officially and formally foreign to their own land while languages of migrant labourers like xhosa and cewa are artificially made to be indigenous.
    The other groups are incensed by the continued division of the country into shona and ndebele, likewise the apportionment of government positions and resources. This is what needs to be sorted once and for all; not to go back thirty years to the gukurahundi only which is just a symptom or outcome of the real serious underlying problem which has been nurtured for many years before gukurahundi came onto the scene.

    • You believe white history when it suits you. why did you not mention the San and the khoyikhoyi.The people who know the truth about Mzilikazi are the Tonga ; Nambiya ; And sotho and kalanga people .If Mzilikazi was that bad these tribe must be the ones to tell because they did stay with him. You also claim that Sotho people are not from this land while where they are found is closer to South Africa and Botswana where the majority are found. the shona people where staying in areas like Masvingo and they are still there no one ever moved them. Mzilikazi and Mambo were so United that’s why long people would always sing a song praising them. First there was no Zimbabwe and Rhodisia it was in fact a creation of the same whites you use their history when it’s suits you.

  2. only time will tell God will not always remain silent. They did kill our parents because they had the support of the British and the US now world politics have changed.They think they are a supurior tribe. that’s why they would always remind us of massacres that happened in Mozambique and they have always travelled there to appease their spirits. When it comes to Gukurahundu where more people were killed they don’t want people to remember their loved ones.

  3. The reason why the issue will not be discussed is because it is portrayed falsely. People in matebeleland talk of Gukurahundi as if the shona just came and killed people as part of an ethnic cleansing exercise but this is not true. Gukurahundi was a retaliation by the shona after the ndebele started killing the shona at entumbane. The shona will not apologise because ndebeles started this but talk as if they were merely victims. Gukurahundi was just a manifestation of problems from long back between the two tribes and the reason why ndebeles are not taken seriously in this country is because they are not truthfull about what happened and they always complain. I am shona and i also wish for peace between the two tribes but ndebeles use their defeat as a political card to win sympathy from the world and thats wrong. It was war and it passed, at that time it was TOTALLY NECESSARY for the shona to do what they did. Let it go or live and die in bitterness.

  4. Prophet Profit, the first known inhabitants of present day Zimbabwe were the San people. Why don’t you mention them? The rest of the Bantu peoples came later and therefore according to your reasoning were ‘artificially made to be indigenous.’ In the interest of lasting peace, the Gukurahundi issue must be faced and dealt with instead of deflecting.

  5. The writer raises some valid points. However, there is still need for sobriety and objectivity in writing about any painful moments of our history. First and foremost it is important to highlight that the leading politicians sat down, acknowledged their misdeeds and apologised. All this was encapsulated by the 1987 Unity Accord.

    What keeps happening is that any politician thrown out of Zanupf or seeking support from the western region exploits traumatic episodes of our history.

    Politicians of all types and persuasion should let me deal with my trauma quietly. I don’t need police clearance or to be hand-led by people looking for votes.

  6. MaDube -are you saying Dabengwa was thrown out of zanupf? As far as I know he LEFT on his own! Well written article Nqa. It was a moment of a MAD MAN mugabe! I read the CCJP report and it was sad reading of how humans can be depraved. It brought a lot of tears. Someone somewhere has copies of both the Dumbutshena report and the Chihambakwe reports.Perhaps their lawyers? Safe deposit box in some bank or somewhere- Please leak them !! please!!!

    • Tom, Dabengwa only left after losing his cabinet job. Welshman Mabhena only became a bitter man after losing his job in government. Mujuru, Tsvangirai and other oppostion politicians only talk about Gukurahundi because they are looking for our votes.

  7. NQABA MATSHAZI, while i agree with you on some of your articles which concern tribalism, i just feel that you seem to have become too obsessed with the issue of tribalism against the Ndebele people. I thought the problem is emanating from both various factors that need a holistic approach. Why can’t you balance it a bit and analyse it from a nuetral point of view.
    Or better still, let other writers speak on the subject since you seem to be a bit biased for one tribe more often than not.

  8. Maybe we should have a commemoration for the raids by the ndebele and another for the gukurahundi another for the 27 June violence another one for the white farmers killed during the farm invasion .Possibly another one for the people for the people who suffered in the hands of the real dissidents cause everybody knows those people exited .Anyone who commited a crime should just face the wrath of the law without trying to divide people with commemorations .

  9. Nqaba your call on Gukurahundi will fall on deaf ears. Politicians are not interested in mas*acres. They only evoke ma*sacres when they want to get a political advantage for themselves. If Dabengwa and others in Zapu were so aggrieved with Gukurahundi why did they sign the Unity Accord with ma*s murderers? Why did Dabengwa agree to be Minister of Home Affairs with murderers? Why did he not raise the issue when he was Minister? Dabengwa is cynical.

  10. politicians will never ask for forgiveness on such.who ever planned and implimented that operation will never come to any victim of gugurahundi and apologise .its thirty years still waiting for an admission of guilt and repentance from the pepetrators but it has not happened it will never happen . how long will the victims wait.why cant the victim consider forgiving and letting go . we cant bring our dead back neither can we live in the past and correct it .i forgave i have no bitterness no hatred no desire for revenge i have peace not because somebody apoapologised but i took it upon myself to let go

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