BY STEPHEN CHADENGA/SILAS NKALA
FAMILIES of the 12 Silobela villagers who were killed in 1985 during the Gukurahundi massacres in the Midlands province have called on government to provide healing services and compensation for the loss of their loved ones.
The issue was raised last Thursday during a National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) meeting with a Bulawayo-based pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu.
The rights groups met with representatives of the affected families in Silobela to discuss the recent theft of the memorial plaques and their significance to villagers.
The plaques were vandalised twice in May and on September 1 this year by suspected State agents. They had been erected by Ibhetshu LikaZulu pressure group.
In a statement on Monday, NTJWG said after meeting the affected families, it emerged that the construction of the memorial structures was an integral part of the healing process.
They said the theft of the plaques was “detrimental” to the healing process as it reminded them of the events of January 31, 1985, when their loved ones were abducted and brutally killed by State security agents.
“There is need for counselling and trauma healing services to be urgently provided to the Silobela families to help them heal as individuals, families, and as a community,” the NTJWG statement read.
“Compensation is a key concern of the people of Silobela. The families of the Silobela 12 are struggling to find peace and forgive the perpetrators; not only because no formal apology has been issued but also because the national authorities have not taken any action to deal with the theft of the memorial plaques which is viewed as endorsement of the theft.”
According to NTJWG, the affected families were willing to speak out about the events of 1985 but the trauma and theft of the plaques were making them “fearful and apprehensive that they might face retribution for speaking out”.
NTJWG called upon the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to play its part in engaging families of the victims and survivors of all eras of violence in Zimbabwe so that they can be given an opportunity to be part of the transitional justice process.
A report by the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice states that over 20 000 people were killed by the Fifth Brigade during the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres when the late former President Robert Mugabe deployed the North Korean-trained army to thwart a PF-Zapu insurgency.
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