BY SILAS NKALA
BULAWAYO-BASED pressure group Ibhetshu likaZulu has replaced a Gukurahundi memorial plaque at Bhalagwe in Maphisa, Matabeleland South province, that was destroyed by suspected State security agents in May this year.
The plaque was unveiled on Saturday during an event attended by outspoken Chief Mathema of Gwanda, among other traditional leaders.
Ibhetshu likaZulu co-ordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo said they kept guard overnight at the once notorious torture camp to ensure the plaque was not vandalised before it was unveiled.
“We replaced the memorial plaque at Bhalagwe on Friday last week and we slept there on Friday night to guard against any vandalism ahead of its unveiling on Saturday. The plaque was unveiled officially by the chiefs from Matabeleland,” Fuzwayo said.
Unknown people in May and June destroyed Gukurahundi memorial plaques in Bhalagwe and Silobela in the Midlands province.
“There are volunteers who are doing night vigils and volunteers who go to pour water to the concrete regularly. The chiefs were clear that they want that place to be a museum and want Bhalagwe not to be a heroes acre,” he added.
According to Fuzwayo, the pressure group intends to install five plaques at Gukurahundi mass graves in Matabeleland North, South and Midlands provinces before year end.
In his address during the unveiling ceremony, Chief Mathema said: “Some of us are cowards even when we are now allowed to talk about the Gukurahundi issue. What I want to emphasise is that we must act on Gukurahundi rather than just talking.
“That is what can heal the people, because just talking when we do not even visit this place it’s useless.”
In Bhalagwe, countless people lie buried in mass graves at the disused mine, while in Silobela, a plaque was erected in memory of 12 villagers killed during the Gukurahundi massacres in 1985.
Over 20 000 people were killed by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade, according to the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice, which wrote a book about the atrocities titled Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980 to 1988.
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