By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, April 15, 2016 – GUKURAHUNDI victims in Matabeleland North on Thursday used the ongoing public hearings into the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill in the resort town to vent their frustrations over the failure by the perpetrators to apologise for the violence 29 years after the conflict ended.
Several people narrated their ordeal at the hands of the army’s Fifth Brigade that was deployed in the Midlands and Matabeleland by then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe soon after independence.
The deployment was ostensibly an operation to hunt down armed insurgents that were sympathetic to former vice president Joshua Nkomo.
As leader of the opposition PF Zapu, Nkomo was a bitter Mugabe rival.
Participants at the Victoria Falls meeting rejected almost three quarters of the Bill presented by Harare West MP, Jessie Majome who chairs Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice.
They said the proposed law was silent on so-called Gukurahundi atrocities which claimed an estimated 20 000 civilians as well as on how it intended to bring some healing for those affected by the army killings.
A Gukurahundi victim Mthungameli Tshuma (73), who said he lost his wife and livestock during the conflict, said he was not ready to forgive because people that were responsible for his plight had not shown remorse.
“My homestead was in Jotsholo and that is where my family perished,” he said.
“I still recall the day of March 13 when they invaded my homestead while we were having supper in the kitchen.
“We were severely assaulted before they secured the door using wires while my heavily pregnant wife was seated next to me.
“They set the kitchen ablaze before moving on to burn our bedroom hut,” Tshuma added.
“I was burnt in the inferno but I managed to escape while my wife who was defenceless died on the spot together with my unborn child.
“That was the end of my new family and everything including my livestock for being a Zapu supporter. I lost an eye as you can see all because of them.
He said he would not be able to forgive the perpetrators until his wife was afforded a proper burial and received some form of compensation from the State.
“I will never forgive until my wife is offered a proper burial together with some of my relatives,” he added.
“We want those perpetrators and Mugabe himself to come and apologise before we agree on the Bill.”
Ngangezwe Khumalo, another Gukurahundi victim, said he was not able to move on before those responsible for his suffering apologised.
“The president said ‘it was a moment of madness’ but that statement alone cannot give me closure and move me to make peace,” he said, referring to Mugabe’s only recorded comment about the atrocities during Nkomo’s burial in 1999.
“My father was killed in a painful manner. He was burnt to death while in a ditch together with other villagers.
“We were never given the opportunity to collect his body to accord him a proper burial and how does one expect me to make peace?
“As we speak, many victims’ bones are always seen during rainy seasons lying idle especially at school because they will tie them and burn them in a ditch until they died,” Khumalo added.
A woman who said she lost a child and her parents during the killings and identified herself as Lucy Ndiweni said the Bill was a mockery to Gukurahundi victims.
“This is mockery to us. My parents together with my five year old daughter were killed and up to now l don’t even know where they were buried,” she said.
“Now all the people who came to address us and preach peace are not even from this region that is why it is easy for you to just say forget about the past,”she said.
Another female said she lost her virginity to a “Shona man” who left her with an unknown child.
Rural Community and Empowerment Trust representative Sethulo Ndebele said the legislators must take the Bill to rural Matabeleland and Midlands where most victims lived.
The meeting started boiling when people were expressing their anger against the Bill until it turned sad where the whole Hall went quite with some shedding tears when the victims were offered a platform to narrate their ordeals.
The government gazetted the NPRC Bill last December to give effect to Sections 251, 252 and 253 of the new Constitution.
The public hearings would be held in all provinces before the Bill is presented to Parliament for approval.
Parliament’s legal committee has already condemned the Bill saying it contravenes some provisions of the country’s supreme law.