Gukurahundi victims remain bystanders in elections

Thousands of Gukurahundi victims do not have identity documents (IDs) following the 1980’s mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands.

Former speaker of Parliament,  Lovemore Moyo, says it is unfortunate that Gukurahundi victims remain stateless and will again fail to vote in the upcoming elections.

Thousands of Gukurahundi victims do not have identity documents (IDs) following the 1980’s mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands.

The massacres only stopped with the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987 between the late former president and Zanu leader Robert Mugabe and PF Zapu leader, the late Joshua Nkomo.

Years later, the majority of the victims have no IDs.

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission voter population statistics, Matabeleland has the fewest registered voters. 

In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to roll out a process of issuing birth certificates and IDs to the victims after meeting with civil society organisations under the banner Matabeleland Collective.

During the same year, Mnangagwa was expected to launch the issuance of identity documents to the victims at Maphisa growth point to kick-start the whole process of finding closure to the emotive issue.

However, the plans remained on paper.

In 2022, government launched a national civil registration blitz to issue birth certificates and IDs.

To register, people were required to give biometric data, such as facial ID’s and fingerprints, but they also needed to provide documents such as birth and death certificates.

Those who can’t produce the documents needed to bring a witness to back their claims.

However, some Gukurahundi victims never benefited from this exercise after losing their relatives, family members and parents during the massacres.

"The issuance of birth certificates and national IDs has always been a major problem in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands, especially for the children whose parents were murdered during the Gukurahundi genocide,” Moyo said.

“Clearly, there's a glaring absence of political willingness on the part of the Zanu PF government to help the victims of the Gukurahundi massacres.

"The communities in the previously affected area still experience the exclusion of those individuals with no IDs from voting in the next general elections.”

Moyo said government must relax conditions for obtaining IDs for Gukurahundi victims.

“In essence, the ruling party and government have been creating an unnecessary obstacle, which makes it impossible for the Gukurahundi genocide orphans to easily access national identification cards," he said.

"What further exacerbates and complicates the resolution of the Gukurahundi saga is the fact that the state committed genocide against its citizens based on tribal inclinations and that the perpetrators are still in power.

“Therefore, outstanding and critical issues related to the Gukurahundi operations still remain unresolved, including the issuance of birth certificates and national identity cards."

Gukurahundi survivor, Felix Mafa, said there is a need to address the issue of statelessness for the victims.

Mafas’s son, Canaan, was abducted by the Fifth Brigade and drowned in the Zambezi River.

"It’s painful because such questions come when people are about to vote,” Mafa said.

“I am a victim, and I lost a son because of Gukurahundi. It’s an episode that should be closed, but no one is prepared to assist those people.”

Mafa, who is also a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member, formed  the  Post-Independence Survivors' Trust, a pressure group to find justice against the perpetrators and healing for the victims.

“It’s apparent that a lot of victims are not only suffering from socioeconomic problems, but from a lack of official documents as well,” he said.

"They don’t have anybody to sign for them because you need somebody who is witness that your mother and father were killed during Gukurahundi.

“So a lot of people in those areas, who are eligible to vote are not citizens of Zimbabwe.

“They cannot even open a telephone line certificate, get official marriages at courts."

Civil Registry communications and advocacy officer, Tsungai Muguti, when contacted for comment on the issuance of IDs for Gukurahundi victims said: "I will have to get more information. You can check next week after the holiday."

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission requested questions in writing, but had not responded by the time of going to print. 

Mugabe, who deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade, never apologised for the massacres until he died.

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