One of the most frequently played videos on ZTV these days is a remix of the 1980s song Mai vaDhikondo.
Editor’s Memo,Brezhnev Malaba
The song means different things to different people. To some, it was a fantastic smash hit, one of the best soundtracks of that heady decade. To the survivors of the Gukurahundi genocide, it was a sadistic anthem of the pogrom, which the North Korena-trained soldiers often forced their victims, at gunpoint, to sing moments before opening fire and mowing down entire families in cold blood.
I am not sure what those who control national television are hoping to achieve by rehashing such a song. Perhaps they don’t owe anyone answers. This also seems to be
the attitude of those who perpetrated the atrocities.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko revealed last weekend that the government is embarking on a programme to address challenges posed by Gukurahundi in order to bring closure to the emotive issue. As part of the plan, people whose parents perished in the massacres will be assisted in acquiring birth certificates while monuments will be built on mass graves.
Mphoko — who is the sole face of the organ on National Healing and Reconciliation — made these revelations while addressing members of the late Chief Malaki Masuku’s family in Nathisa in Matobo district.
Why has it taken this long for leaders to acknowledge that there are countless survivors of Gukurahundi who are leading wretched lives after being rendered stateless by an uncaring government that has stubbornly refused to issue them with birth certificates and national identification documents for decades on end? The vice-president must be told in no uncertain terms that he is not going to receive a pat on the back for suddenly promising birth certificates to traumatised communities.
In the absence of restorative justice and face-to-face dialogue, there can be no genuine healing. Monuments, by definition, are meant to preserve memory. But in a country where the political leaders have refused to shape a collective memory of the killings, how can communities be expected to build a sense of collective identity?
Whose version of the genocide will Mphoko’s monuments showcase?
A better approach for the government would be to embark on a comprehensive consultative process to gather the views and sentiments of traditional chiefs.
This week, I spoke to a man whose relatives were murdered by the state-sponsored Fifth Brigade. He told me that Mphoko’s announcement did not excite him at all. His first point was that public officials have deliberately dragged their feet on this matter. He then caught me off-guard with his second argument: “Even if they issue me with a passport, that document will serve as a constant reminder that I don’t belong. Have you ever read the iSiNdebele section of that passport? The grammar is so bad, I can’t embrace that.”
When I read the passport, I was stunned. How can this be allowed? The mangling of national languages by people who should know better is scandalous, insane and unacceptable.
A few years ago, Sitha Sabelo Ngwenya, a human rights lawyer, outraged by what he saw in the Zimbabwe passport, remarked: “How can a sane government allow the butchering of other people’s languages in official documents for a good 34 years? Several complaints have been made to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Home Affairs by the Ndebele-speaking people but nobody seems to care or listen.”
This past week, National Building Society, a company owned by the National Social Security Authority, learnt the hard way that national languages must be respected.
After Zimbabweans on social media erupted in condemning the building society for publishing a shoddy advertisement featuring mangled Ndebele, the company beat a hasty retreat and apologised.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe does not recognise historically entrenched tribal hierarchies. Every culture is important. Political leaders have failed to articulate a message of truth, justice, forgiveness and healing.