Gukurahundi refers to the attempted genocide of the Ndebele by Robert Mugabe's Fifth Brigade soon after Zimbabwe gained independence. Beginning in January , Mugabe waged a campaign of terror against the people in Matabeleland in the western part of the country. There have long been strong feelings between the majority Shona people of Zimbabwe and the Ndebele people in the south of the country. It dates back to the early s when the Ndebele were pushed from their traditional lands in what is now South Africa by the Zulu and Boer. The Ndebele arrived in what is now known as Matabeleland, and in turn pushed out or required tribute from the Shona living in the region. Both had emerged from the National Democratic Party in the early 60s.
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In , Nqobizitha Mhlaleri was ten years old when a bloody massacre in western Zimbabwe destroyed his community and left him an orphan. They left a trail of disaster. I was told to lie face down…The next thing were gunshots and they left.
When I went to check, I saw my husband in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the head. In Matabeleland and the Midlands, many people have similarly traumatic experiences from the s when political tensions spilled into mass atrocities.
The Fifth Brigade, a military unit trained by the North Korean army, swept through provinces in Matebeleland and the Midlands, where ZAPU support — much of which came from the minority Ndebele people — derived.
From to , security forces targeted thousands of Ndebele with torture, detention and summary execution. An estimated 20, people were killed. This period of violence effectively ended in December when former President Mugabe and Nkomo signed the Unity Accord. In the following months, an amnesty was announced for both security forces and dissidents who had committed violations.
The Gukurahundi massacres ended but the underlying issues and impact of the chaos remained unresolved and unaddressed. Many Ndebele communities were left devastated and alone to cope with the trauma and loss, passing on the pain from generation to generation.
There are still mass graves. There was never any compensation of victims. Beyond that, little has been done to atone for the widespread violence. Many Ndebele still suffer from the wounds of the Gukurahundi, which were made even harder to bear when Mugabe was removed from office and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa in November He is widely believed to have played a central role in the massacres. Perence Shiri is Agriculture Minister. Since coming to office, President Mnangagwa has made some efforts to address the grievances of the Ndebele community.
In March , for instance, he agreed to meet with representatives of the Matebeleleland Collective, a consortium of regional civil society organisations. For Jenny Williams, convener of the collective, the time was right to meet with the new government. That decision may have borne some fruit.
In the weeks following the meeting, Mnangagwa appealed to Zimbabweans to talk freely about the massacres.
The government also suggested plans to exhume and rebury victims, provide counselling and medical services, and issue documents to displaced survivors. These moves have so far split opinion. Dr Dumisani Ngwenya, a member of the Matebeleleland Collective, is cautiously optimistic. Many others, however, are far less convinced.
Researcher Tjenesani Ntungakwa echoes some of these views and suggests that only an independent body can honestly adjudicate. Across Matebeleleland and the Midlands, the impact of the violence in the s continues to be felt. For survivors like Nqobizitha, the lack of redress has made it hard to move on.
He and thousands of others are still awaiting acknowledgement from the government, an apology and meaningful compensation. Either way, for many, the Gukurahundi massacres continue to loom over Zimbabwe 36 years after they began. But on the other, some argue that the issue is about more than just one group; it strikes at the heart of the kind of nation Zimbabwe should be.
There is no willingness on the part of the rulers to redress anything. If the economy is on a death bed how is it possible that reparations can occur? Where is all the money going to come from when the rulers spend it lavishly? Unfortunately there are very influential people who back all this sham and keep Zimbabwe from turning the corner because they are benefitting? African Arguments.
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The Gukurahundi was a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early to late It derives from a Shona language term which loosely translates to "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains". Over the following two years, thousands of Ndebele were detained by government forces and either marched to re-education camps or summarily executed. Although there are different estimates, the consensus of the International Association of Genocide Scholars IAGS is that more than 20, people were killed. The IAGS has classified the massacres as a genocide. There is a much earlier source for Shona hostility to the Ndebele, going back to the arrival in of Mzilikazi and his Matabele followers. Mzilikazi carved out a territory for himself by fighting and dispossessing the local Shona, and this humiliation has not been forgotten by the Shona.
Gukurahundi: Can the man accused of opening the wounds heal them?
After trying twice to erect a memorial to victims of the Gukurahundi massacres on community land in the Maphisa area of Bhalagwe, Zimbabwe in , a local civic group succeeded on 21 February, according to their community leader. The memorial was destroyed by vandals days later. The area, named after the Ndebele people, spans three provinces. Although some reports indicate that 2, people were killed during the Gukurahundi in the s, primarily in Matabeleland, a number of reports put the number of victims at 20, or higher.
What Was Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe?
In , Nqobizitha Mhlaleri was ten years old when a bloody massacre in western Zimbabwe destroyed his community and left him an orphan. They left a trail of disaster. I was told to lie face down…The next thing were gunshots and they left. When I went to check, I saw my husband in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the head.