Propaganda war won’t diminish Gukurahundi

THERE is now a deliberate concerted effort to downplay the Gukurahundi massacres as evidenced by the current, apparently coordinated, discussion of the matter.

Report by By Sithelo Mpala

Recently there were two articles in the media, one defending the brutal massacres as a national security issue (Gukurahundi was not genocide, by Mai Jukwa, NewZimbabwe.com) while the other frames them as a conflict between civilians of different tribes and the victims should forgive and move forward (Don’t abuse Gukurahundi by Darlington Mahuku and Bowden Mbanje, The Herald).

This propaganda material was sent for publishing in different media to target different audiences and achieve maximum readership. One article targeted NewZimbabwe.com to reach the online and mostly international readership while the one in The Herald aimed for national readership.

These two articles most probably appeared by design. The evidence that can be used to connect these two articles is the similar messages they carry.

First, they have a nationalistic tone, emphasising moving beyond the Gukurahundi massacres to becoming a united nation. Second, they exonerate the government and military leaders of any wrongdoing.

The exoneration is through omission. The articles are glaringly silent on scrutinising the decisions of the political and military leadership, as well as that of the foot soldiers.

Instead the architects, such as President Robert Mugabe and Air Force commander Perence Shiri, are portrayed as heroes who saw the massacres as “madness” that should not be repeated, even though they happened under their resolve to intensify the killings of innocent and unarmed civilians, and arrest of the Zapu leadership. Lookout Masuku, a Zapu leader who was never charged with any crime, ultimately died from illness while incarcerated.

Third, the articles portray the massacres perpetrated on peaceful, unarmed and innocent civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands as a “conflict of every man against every man” and a tribe against tribe.
The Gukurahundi is now being framed as a Rwanda-kind of genocide where civilians killed each other.

This is a big lie. The Gukurahundi massacres resulted in the deaths of about 20 000 innocent and unarmed civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands by a government army battalion, the Fifth Brigade in the 1980s. The innocent and unarmed civilians were accused by the Zimbabwean government of supporting armed dissidents.

Yet, no evidence has been provided up to this day, and even the lowest of the low revisionist will not expressly claim that these innocent and unarmed civilians sympathised with or even supported dissidents.

The mere fact that these revisionists, who portray themselves as champions of reconciliation, are so deceptive demonstrates how evil the whole plan is to diminish and even revise the facts on Gukurahundi. If the Matabeleland and Midlands victims of the savage killings were somehow allowing themselves to forget the Gukurahundi, then this evil revisionist onslaught is opening up old, yet still fresh, wounds.

It is misguided for these revisionists to abuse their intellectual powers to distort knowledge about the massacres, while on the other hand calling for forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is hardly strange that it’s easy for these revisionists to engage in such deception because they did not experience the massacres. They did not lose their fathers and mothers or brothers and sisters, hence their academic jigsaw puzzle approach.

To the victims, the massacres are not an academic jigsaw puzzle that governance and political analysts discuss with the intent of developing different perspectives and theories to justify or tone them down. If we want to make it an intellectual ball game, let the people have their voice or just open the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) report which documented the savage murders, and see whether these intellectuals will manage to handle what comes out of that exercise.

To demonstrate that the case for the revisionists is selective and deceitful they don’t refer to the CCJP report, the official report which documented the massacres and was presented to then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.

Even the fact that the revisionists continue to state that the massacres were a conflict between civilians of different tribes shows beyond reasonable doubt their bad faith.

When these emerging revisionists suggest Gukurahundi massacres were a civilian conflict they actually mean Matabeleland and Midlands people were dissidents. The funny thing is that they don’t identity the other tribe which supposedly fought Matabeleland and Midlands people.

But we know there were no other opposing civilian tribes fighting these people except the massacres by the army’s Fifth Brigade.

People from Matabeleland and Midlands regions never attempted to take up arms or organise against the Zimbabwe government or soldiers. They neither supported the dissidents nor created any structures to support dissidents. It thus becomes ridiculous to justify why anyone should be killed. That’s why we need a truth and reconciliation commission to understand what motivated the killing of the 20 000 civilians by government soldiers.

There cannot be reconciliation or moving forward under the current deception. There should be reconciliation, but it should happen in an environment of truth, frankness and genuine remorse.

However, the prosecution of those responsible for the massacres would serve as a lesson to anyone now or in the future who might want to kill or promote the killing of other people.

Killing people that we disagree with especially on political issue continues to be a problem now. So one of the ways we can eradicate this immoral culture is to hold people to account through mechanisms such as the truth and reconciliation commission.

On what basis do we call the Gukurahundi massacre victims to move ahead if they don’t publicly recount their ordeals, trauma, and pose questions while voicing their expectations? But obviously those who did not experience the massacres cannot empathise.

Sithelo Mpala is a graduate of International Relations.