Suspected human bones believed to be of victims of the Gukurahundi massacres discovered in Kezi, Matabeleland South last week were “hurriedly” reburied without any forensic analysis, raising questions that government is “hiding something”.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Kezi is one of the areas that bore the brunt of the mass killings and one of the most notorious “concentration” camps known as Bhalagwe is found there.
In the ’80s, an army crack unit specially trained by North Korean instructors, rampaged through the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, killing an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians, according to the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice.
Kezi was one of the areas that were heavily targeted.
Last week, villagers found human remains scattered along the banks of Bhode River near Kezi business centre and several were dug out at the instructions of Chief Nyangazonke.
Chief Nyangazonke on Sunday ordered the villagers to re-bury the remains without any forensic investigation to establish their identity and cause of death, a move roundly condemned by the opposition and researchers as depressing and unfortunate.
The remains were re-buried on Wednesday at the Kezi Rural Hospital graveyard, councillor Sinikiwe Moyo confirmed.
“On Sunday at a ward meeting, Chief Nyangazonke ordered all village heads and villagers to come and re-bury the bones on Wednesday. No one could challenge him. At the reburial, the chief was not there, the police were not there, people were being led by their village heads.
“All the bones were gathered and put in bags and were reburied at Kezi Hospital graveyard. No one knows what happened in the area or who these people were,” Moyo said, adding this was not the first time human remains have been discovered at the area.
“Every year during the rainy season, human remains are discovered. These people were buried close to the river and once it rains, the bones are exposed.
“We always make reports to the police but we get told to re-bury them. So every year we have been re-burying human remains.”
Chief Nyangazonke was not answering his mobile phone on Friday, and it was not reachable yesterday.
However, the opposition condemned the hurried re-burial of the human remains without any forensic investigation, with MDC T spokesperson Obert Gutu saying the “Gukurahundi truth cannot be suppressed indefinitely”.
Gutu heaped all blame on Zanu PF.
“It is more than clear and obvious that the human remains that were recently discovered in the Kezi area date back from the Gukurahundi era. In fact, this is the main reason why the Zanu PF regime rushed to re-bury the human remains without subjecting them to a forensic analysis,” he said in an interview on Friday.
“This is a most unfortunate and depressing event because it shows and proves, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Zanu PF regime is not keen on bringing closure to the victims of the Gukurahundi genocide.
“However, the truth cannot be suppressed indefinitely.”
Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya-Moyo refused to comment on the matter yesterday.
“I don’t want to comment on something that I do not know,” he said. “I need to have all the information about the discovered human remains, the whole story before I comment.”
Politician David Coltart, who wrote extensively on the Gukurahundi massacres in his biography titled The Struggle Continues: 50 Years Of Tyranny in Zimbabwe, said the re-burial of the human remains without any identification showed government “wanted to hide something”.
“It is wrong to re-bury the remains without taking any effort to establish whose remains they are,” he said.
“There are many surviving relatives and loved ones who do not know what happened to deceased loved ones who sometimes disappeared without trace. In this modern scientific age, DNA sampling can establish the identity of remains and this should always be done before remains are re-buried.”
Coltart added: “Furthermore, some of these graves may be crime scenes and so it is always important to conduct a thorough forensic study of such sites before they are disrupted and potential evidence lost.
“Suspicions will certainly be raised that the government is hiding something if the government is seen to hurriedly re-bury remains without engaging local communities and forensic experts.”
Despite President Robert Mugabe admitting Gukurahundi was a “moment of madness”, his party is still determined to suppress any discussion or investigation of the matter.
Human remains have also been discovered in other districts such as Lupane, in Matabeleland North province.
In 2011, pupils playing football at the grounds of St Paul Secondary School stumbled on human bones sticking out of the ground.
Finland Zimbabwean-based researcher and scholar of African politics, Obert Hodzi said the way the Kezi bones were handled raised eyebrows.
“The burial of human remains without proper investigation and determination of whether those remains are forensics or not raises grave suspicions that the authorities have something to hide,” he said.
“Just assuming the remains are from the liberation war without conducting proper investigations seem to be an attempt to shrug off possibilities that they might be remains of victims of Gukurahundi.
“Considering the region in which the remains were found, there is a high possibility that they might be remains of Gukurahundi.
“Authorities should have conducted through investigations, at least out of respect for survivors and families of Gukurahundi victims who are still searching for the remains of their missing relatives.”
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko is facing spirited resistance from within his own Zanu PF party to the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill, which seeks to bring closure to past conflicts that among others, include Gukurahundi.
Recently-released diplomatic cables sent to London and Washington at the height of the Gukurahundi have revealed how countries such as Britain chose to ignore the atrocities to protect their own interests.
They also show the extent to which politicians and army generals such as Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sidney Sekeramayi, Constantino Chiwenga and Perence Shiri were involved in the atrocities.
The cables describe the killings as ethnic cleansing as the North Korean-trained brigade targeted Ndebele-speaking supporters of late Vice President Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu.