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.
By NQABA MATSHAZI
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.