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Charamba statement on Gukurahundi a grave insult

By Sabelo Ngwenya

The unresolved issue of the Gukurahundi genocide of the 1980s remains as one of the hottest subjects in the land between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers.

George Charamba, the spokesman of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
George Charamba, the spokesman of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

Throughout the years I have come to know “Gukurahundi” not only as a Shona word which means “the early rain which washes away the chaff before spring” but also as any horrific experience that can be visited by barbarians to innocent mortals.

I have come to know Gukurahundi as keg of bottled-up emotions and visible wounds that can only be traced back to the known evil deeds of the perverted machinery of the Zimbabwe regime.

The Gukurahundi genocide happened sometime between 1982 and 1987 when the Zimbabwean regime unleashed a battalion of carefully selected soldiers belonging to the Shona ethnic group against unarmed and innocent civilians belonging to the Ndebele ethnic group of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces (Mthwakazi). 

This military force carried out horrific public and secret executions which accounted for more than 30 000 deaths whilst more than 60 000 people were beaten, burned or raped, and forced to sing Shona songs praising Robert Mugabe and ZANU(PF).

In so far as the Zimbabwe regime is concerned this issue is a “closed chapter” that was sealed by the Unity Accord of the 22nd December 1987 between  Robert Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) and Joshua Nkomo’s PF(ZAPU).

Apart from Robert Mugabe’s ‘moment of madness” phrase and Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ‘closed chapter’ comment, little is known about the what is supposed to be true contents of this vague sounding political pact vis-à-vis the Gukurahundi genocide. 

Asked about the government’s position on the issue, one of Robert Mugabe’s most trusted spin doctors, George Charamba recently uttered what I  consider to be the greatest insult ever said by a genocide denialist to his victims since the advent of genocide denialism when he passed the following comment;

“You are a crazy young man, hauna kunzwa here kuti (didn’t you hear) President Mugabe said it was a moment of madness, that is all I can tell you,…..That is a closed topic and people who want to talk about that era should know it.”

There you have it. The empty words of a genocide perpetrator who made a false pretence of repentance are now being presented by his spin doctors as an everlasting record of some imaginary “truth and reconciliation” settlement between him and his victims.

Not only do Charamba’s comments add fuel to a growing Gukurahundi denialist culture amongst Zimbabweans, they also go a step further to portray anyone who honestly inquiries about the unresolved subject of the Gukurahundi genocide as worse than the unrepentant genocide perpetrators.

One is even left to wonder whether Charamba has ever bothered to place himself in the shoes of a person who was maimed or injured or who lost his or her loved ones or their entire livelihood as a consequence of the Gukurahundi genocide!

Those cynical comments place George Charamba amongst the growing list of senior leaders of the Zimbabwe regime who have now taken keen interest in making regular public pronouncements to the effect that the Gukurahundi genocide is a closed chapter.

Senior Gukurahundist Emmerson Mnangagwa is also on record for pronouncing the Gukurahundi genocide is a ‘closed chapter” and so is Rtd Lt Col Lionel Dyke who once said that the Gukurahundi genocide “brought peace very, very quickly” to post-colonial Zimbabwe.

There are thousands more men and women of Charamba’s ilk who secretly harbour such thoughts, only that they choose not to express their denialism in public. They choose to deny the reality that the Gukurahundi genocide is not a closed chapter as a way of avoiding the uncomfortable truth that their hands are dripping with the blood of the innocent.

They choose to bury their heads in the sand despite the overwhelming empirical evidence that the Gukurahundi genocide is an open chapter. Whenever they are confronted with hard facts about the Gukurahundi genocide, they choose the irrational path of citing examples of  what could be considered as far much less barbaric  ‘atrocities’  of the past in a vain attempt to justify their horrible sins by proving that what they did is not uncommon in history.

The hour of truth is nigh and the wall of silence is cracking thanks to the courageous efforts of Moses Mzila-Ndlovu and others. Sooner or later the Zimbabwean regime will have to abandon its irrational policy of denialism and accept the obvious reality that the Gukurahundi genocide will remain an open chapter until the day justice prevails. Mere talk about a “closed chapter” is not known to have closed any chapter in recorded history!

Ironically George Charamba’s denialism comes at a time when international human rights watchdogs like Genocide Watch have joined the people of Mthwakazi in declaring that the 5th Brigade atrocities amounted to genocide and that those responsible should be prosecuted.

If Nazi war criminals were hunted into their twilight years in pursuit of justice and as a way of bringing lasting closure to the Holocaust victims of Hitler’s Germany why should the architects and perpetrators of the equally horrific Gukurahundi genocide be spared?

Sooner or later the long arm of the law will catch up with the likes of George Charamba, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe!

Sabelo Ngwenya is a Mthwakazi activist based in South Africa.

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