BY SILAS NKALA BULAWAYO-based pressure group Ibhetshu likaZulu recently held a memorial lecture for the six tourists who were abducted on July 23, 1982 at Insuza in Matabeleland North while traveling to Bulawayo.
There has been suspicion that the government was responsible for the kidnapping as a scapegoat to deploy the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade under the cover of tracking the alleged dissidents who abducted the tourists.
The Fifth Brigade terrorised communities, killing an estimated 20 000 people in what later became known as Gukurahundi to silence dissent against the government of the late Robert Mugabe.
Ibhetshu likaZulu coordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo said the memorial lecture was held in Bulawayo, and attracted various civic groups and residents.
Bulawayo based journalist Zenzele Ndebele and human rights activist Effie Ncube were the discussants during the memorial lecture.
The six tourists, two Americans, Kevin Ellis (24) of Bellevue, Washington and Brett Baldwin (23) from Seattle, two Australians, Tony Bajzelz (25) and William Butler (31) and two Britons, James Greenwell (18) and Martyn Hodgson (35) were reportedly abducted by 12 armed men while traveling in a truck from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo.
Their fate and whereabouts remain unknown to this date.
Fuzwayo said the place where the tourists were abducted must be marked in the spirit of documenting the history.
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“The government must facilitate a truth telling process.
“The feeling of the people is that the tourists were abducted by the government to justify the deployment of the fifth brigade,” Fuzwayo said.
“It is the feeling of the participants that only the state knew about the presence of the tourists. No one knew about their itinerary except the government.”
Ncube said the kidnapping of the tourists remains a key jigsaw puzzle in resolving the Gukurahundi genocide.
“The identity of perpetrators of the abductions and killings and the circumstances of the incident remains shrouded in mystery, myth and many unanswered questions,” Ncube said.
“Uncovering the full and credible truth on this will lead us to understanding the truth on the genocide because this incident was used to commit wider atrocities across Matabeleland and Midlands.
“Therefore whoever is going to be tasked with addressing the Gukurahundi genocide should as well focus on that incident.”
Mugabe died before addressing the Gukurahundi massacres. He only went as far as describing the killings as a moment of madness.
“We have children who were born out of that (rape by the Fifth Brigade) and taken care of by us and we send them to school we cannot dump them after that,” Ncube said.
“There is a lot of pain which grips this region.”