GUKURAHUNDI remains a sore and divisive topic in Zimbabwe, and recent developments are showing that there are those who wish to keep the ghosts buried and victims who need closure to move on.
According to the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG), suspected State security agents have been desecrating Gukurahundi mass graves, particularly at Bhalagwe mass grave site in Kezi, Matabeleland South province.
A plaque recently erected at Bhalagwe mass grave in memory of the victims of the 1980s massacres was destroyed for the second time after the original memorial was trashed in February 2019.
What is evident is that there are people who are not keen to have memorials that stand as an eternal reminder of how the Zimbabwe government collectively failed its citizens and became an existential threat to a group of its citizens simply because they belonged to a different tribe or political ideology.
The 1980s mass killings claimed over 20 000 lives in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces but government appears reluctant to bring closure to the issue. Many of the victims or their families are left to bear the psychological scars on their own, with the authorities unwilling to come clean or allow them to grieve publicly.
The desecration of the mass graves or the theft and destruction of memorials also show that the victims are not being allowed to remember their lost loved ones publicly either. This is preposterous and shameful.
Such actions and lack of action against the perpetrators means the anger and resentment over Gukurahundi has continued to fester emotional wounds among a significant portion of the population. This is not a good thing for a country that has seen too much violence on its shores, most of it at the hands of its leaders.
Victims must be allowed to grieve publicly, and authorities must decriminalise the subject. Zimbabweans must be allowed to debate and discuss the subject freely and memorials to the victims must not be disturbed.
Even after the Unity Accord of 1987 that ended the State killings in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces, hundreds were killed in political violence that has accompanied elections since then. Those victims deserve to be remembered for their struggle against tyranny and fight to keep democracy alive.
Maybe seeing the memorials will keep this uncomfortable subject in the public eye and finally get us to confront the ugly chapters of our past, embrace one another and move forward as a united people.
Maybe we can say loudly and clearly: never again should State power be used and abused by a privileged few to oppress the majority in pursuit of power!