The Zimbabwe Victims of Organised Violence Trust (Zivovt) plans to erect the memorial site “as a remembrance of the thousands of people who either lost their lives or were tortured at the concentration camp during the 1980s.”
In a letter addressed to Washy Sibanda, the chairman of the Matobo Rural District Council (RDC), dated January 24 2011, Zivovt said building a memorial site at Bhalagwe camp was also part of a national healing process.
“As all will by now know, Bhalagwe Concentration/Detention Camp was used by the army at the height of political disturbances in Matabeleland and Midlands.
“In that camp many people were tortured, raped or killed.
“As part of the national healing process and as a remembrance of the suffering of the people abused there and also as a way of keeping history (whether good or bad) alive, we propose to erect a memorial site at Bhalagwe Camp and accordingly apply to your council to do so,” reads in part the letter by Zivovt trust secretary, Bekithemba Nyathi
Zivovt, which was formed last year, is chaired by Patience Nabanyama, wife of the late Patrick Nabanyama, an MDC activist who was abducted by war veterans in the run-up to the 2000 general elections.
Matobo RDC officials, speaking on condition that they were not named, told The Standard that the council was yet to respond to the letter.
“We are hoping that our request will be granted,” Nyathi said. “Getting a go ahead to erect the memorial site will be a welcome move that will also push the government to acknowledge that bad part of our country’s history.”
Repeated efforts to obtain a comment from the Matobo RDC chairman were fruitless last week as his mobile phone was unreachable.
According to activists and survivors of the Matabeleland disturbances, about 20 000 civilians lost their lives when President Robert Mugabe sent the North Korean trained 5th Brigade in the early 1980s to fight an alleged insurgency.
In September last year, a Washington-based group that campaigns against mass murders, Genocide Watch called on the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a full investigation of the Gukurahundi massacres with the aim of establishing a mixed UN-Zimbabwean Tribunal to bring Mugabe and the perpetrators to trial.
Genocide Watch said a mixed UN-Zimbabwean Criminal Tribunal — like the one established in Cambodia to probe the Khmer Rouge killings — could also be created to try Mugabe and other leaders of the genocide.
Bhalagwe was originally a military camp but was turned into a concentration camp in 1982 when the mainly Zipra unit was accused of being dissident.