ED’s top aide in Gukurahundi storm

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba

PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson George Charamba torched a storm yesterday after he declared that the erection of Gukurahundi memorial plaques was illegal.

Bulawayo-based pressure group Ibhetshu LikaZulu immediately vowed to continue putting them up.

The group has been erecting memorial plaques in memory of hundreds of people that were killed during the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide and were buried in mass graves at Bhalagwe in Kezi, Matabeleland North province.

But the plaques were destroyed by unknown assailants early this year, amid allegations that State security agents were involved.

Charamba told the Centre for Innovation and Technology that the memorial plaques were illegally erected.

“The erection was done outside government policy,” Charamba said.

“These things are just being done arbitrarily. In a sovereign country with a competent government, you can’t just erect a monument which is supposed to speak to a community without the involvement of the State. We are not a lawless society. It doesn’t matter whether there were chiefs who attended, it does not. We are talking tough on that one. It is unlawful.”

Ibhetshu LikaZulu co-ordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo yesterday told NewsDay that it was not
surprising that government was against the erection of the memorial plaques as it had never admitted that Gukurahundi was genocide.

“If they say the plaques are illegal, what then is legal about the genocide they committed? Government has a case to answer on its genocide issue, and we won’t ask for permission to erect the plaques,” Fuzwayo said.

“We will not be intimidated. They can’t threaten us. We will continue erecting them as long as we have resources. The vandalism is actually exposing government’s lies that people would freely talk about the Gukurahundi genocide. They must admit that Gukurahundi was genocide. We don’t expect the State to protect the plaques when it cannot protect its citizens.”

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power, he opened public debate on the issue, but critics say his government’s opposition to the plaques showed that he wants to be the one leading the narrative.

Over 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces were killed by security agents between 1982 and 1987.

  • By Miriam Mangwanya/CITE