Trauma haunts Gukurahundi victims — Report

RECEIVING neither counselling nor apologies, victims of Gukurahundi are still living with the trauma of the 1980s military-led ethnic killings, a report on transitional justice released by a coalition of human rights groups has noted.

The report, compiled by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum after conducting interviews in 51 constituencies, narrates how the wounds of Gukurahundi are kept fresh by President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to publicly apologise for deploying a military brigade that killed civilians including pregnant women and children in Matabeleland.
The Human Rights NGO Forum report compiled this year points out that participants in the meeting that took place in Bulilima were concerned about the aftermath of Gukurahundi.
“The victims of Gukurahundi need to be rehabilitated. Some may need counselling because they have not been able to deal with the trauma. Where possible, the perpetrators must be made to pay for the damages and the pain they caused,’’ was one of the recommendations made by participants in Bulilima.
According to the report, titled “Taking Transitional Justice to the People”, the “arrogance of the leadership in failing to acknowledge past wrongs came out as a major obstacle to reconciliation’’.
Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals Gorden Moyo launched the report in Bulawayo last Friday.
Over 20 000 people were killed in the military campaign, which was launched on the pretext of pursuing dissidents, according to figures by the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum sets out the experiences of its members and associates who conducted outreach meetings as part of its community-based programme to take the concept of transitional justice to the grassroots.
“Truth recovery and truth disclosure to redress the human rights abuses of the past and in so doing foster true national reconciliation is the dominant plea of all the participants,” read the report.
According to the report participants in Nkayi concurred that people involved in the Gukurahundi massacres should face justice. No-one has been arrested for the killings. Some of the campaign’s leading figures such as Perrence Shiri have been promoted and now occupy command positions in the military.
“President Robert Mugabe should come to the people and apologise for the massacres that happened in Matabeleland,’’ the report quotes an elderly male participant as having demanded during a meeting in Nkayi.
Participants stressed that there could be no reconciliation without an element of truth recovery on Gukurahundi.
“There is no other way to reconcile the region of Matabeleland with the rest of the country if the truth of what happened during the Gukurahundi is not known,” the report says.
“Even for an apology to be accepted, it must be clear what is being apologised for.”
In Lupane, villagers said the current criminal justice system was incapable of delivering justice to victims.
“Most of the officials staffed at the courts are steeped in partisan politics to the extent that it is difficult to expect them to be impartial,” one participant is quoted as saying in Lupane.
Added another participant: “The police and the Central Intelligence Organisation have become a law unto themselves. Whatever they want to do to whomever, they do without fear.”
Women and youth groups in Chiredzi called for judicial reform to address multi-faceted transitional justice issues. “Chiredzi, as a multi-cultural community has suffered abuses from all angles — economic, cultural, tribal and religious,” the report says. “In that regard, the normal legal process has no capacity to address these problems.”
On reparations, participants in Chiredzi said they were still feeling the effect of Murambatsvina, a 2005 government operation to destroy illegal houses. The UN says Operation Murambatsvina left over 700 000 people homeless, forcing some to seek refuge in football stadiums and open spaces in the middle of winter.
“The society has suffered greatly because of Murambatsvina. These cannot be repaired in any monetary way but the society expects sanitisation of the environment and revival of industry.”
Participants from Buhera Central demanded justice and asked for perpetrators to personally ask victims for forgiveness.
Reconciliation means that the offender must seek his victims and plead for forgiveness after acknowledgement of the wrong
“Arresting offenders is not enough. They must pay back what they looted and repair what they damaged. How can our hearts be cleansed?”  the report quotes an eldrely man who spoke on behalf of the victims.  “Will the government compensate us for our lost chickens so that we can forgive these people?”

 

Nqobile Bhebhe

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