Efforts to atone for Gukurahundi

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BULAWAYO – Former Magwegwe legislator Felix Mafa Sibanda — through his Post-Independent Survivors Trust (Pist) — is moving to pressure government to address Gukurahundi atrocities.

The atrocities have become known as the country’s worst genocide.

Thousands of men, women and children were shot, starved, and tortured to death by members of the Fifth Brigade as they put down an insurrection in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces in the early years after the 1980 independence.

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For more than 30 years, the atrocities have been largely forgotten in Zimbabwe.

Now, a series of events is raising the profile of the massacre of the Ndebele people and bringing justice for their descendants a little closer.

A push for possible reparation and national healing is underway and proponents hope for an official apology.

And for Sibanda, part of Pist’s objectives is “to assist victims of Gukurahundi — old and young — to procure official documents and to document human rights violations as well as help political victims in post-independent Zimbabwe”.

Sibanda, who is also the provincial deputy spokesperson for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, said he was compelled to form the organisation after he lost his first born during the widely condemned atrocities.

“My first born son, Canaan, a former Zipra cadre, was killed in cold blood by the 5th Brigade at the instigation of Zanu PF leadership then. He was killed in 1985 in Loretto/Silobela Police Station and shoved into a disused mine. Later, his bones were discovered by  (panners),” he said.

“In that disused gold mine were 12 skulls of which it was hard to positively identify who was who. What assisted us were coins found in the shaft with bones,” Sibanda narrated.

He said what touches him till today is that he was never given an opportunity to bury his son.

But now he appears to have gained solace in assisting fellow affected citizens in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

“As an organisation, we have instituted programmes in the affected areas like Silobela, Lupane, Nkayi, Gwanda, Bhalagwe, and Kezi just to mention a few places of concern. We documented whatever we observed or told by victims,” Sibanda said.

He added: “We discovered that what was immediately needed were birth certificates.  We have assisted 156 victims to date. We also assisted six families to acquire missing persons’ certificates.”

While lack of funding has hindered his programme, Sibanda said his determination was to see the truth about the genocide being publicised.

“If partners would be brave to sponsor this project, victims of the post-independent Zimbabwe would be much better than at present moment. People must open up and demand justice and cause reconciliation but justice and truth first. We need transitional justice.”

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