Outrage Over Gukurahundi Song

Concerned citizens have petitioned Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu, in desperate attempts to have the song Amai vaDhikondo be banned from the national airwaves, saying plans to unleash it on the nation came at a time when the nation is trying to heal the wounds of past atrocities.

Rephius Tachi, who composed the song while working under the former 5 Brigade commander, Perence Shiri, is reported to be planning the release in a new 8 track compilation.

“It is so outrageous it has to be stopped and condemned by all peace loving Zimbabweans,” said Thamsanqa Zhou, who is spearheading a campaign to stop the song being released.

Amai vaDhikondo was a theme song used by the 5 Brigade during the Gukurahundi massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland in the 1980s.

Victims were forced to sing the song before and during the killings.

Independent estimates are that some 20 000 innocent civilian supporters of ZAPU, an opposition party in Zimbabwe were killed at the time.

”For those of us, who are direct and indirect victims of the Gukurahundi, it is shocking that a song that arouses emotions and traumatic memories can be allowed any airplay when all should be focusing on national healing. On behalf of those who hold strong feelings about human rights in Zimbabwe and the Gukurahundi in particular, I urge the Ministry of Media and the Organs for National Healing to order that the song must never be released again.”

“Tachi and the Air Force needs to also apologise to the victims of Gukurahundi for releasing the song in the first place fully aware of what that song symbolised to innocent victims of the Gukurahundi,” reads part of Zhou petition.

President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo forged a Unity Accord in 1987, which culminated in the end of the political disturbances in the two provinces of Matabeleland and some parts of the Midlands.

Although short of offering an outright apology over the atrocities committed by state security agents in the two provinces, Mugabe has admitted the crimes were due to a regretted period of madness.

Meanwhile Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa caused a storm on Wednesday night when he claimed that Mugabe was not responsible for the Gukurahundi massacres.

Chinamasa made the shocking remark at a meeting that had been organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZiC) to discuss the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill.

“I am surprised that we are simplifying complex issues. Let’s take Gukurahundi, once you start a conflict it feeds on itself, it achieves and assumes a life of its own. So the thrust should be to prevent, once it has happened, my dear colleagues and brothers and sisters, once it has happened there is no one, anymore who can be responsible for what happens. It has happened in our colonial period, it has happened even before the colonial times. if there is a crisis there is no way anyone can turn to be in control, so words like president commandeered this or that are just reckless statements. No one ordered the killing of anyone it was a national crisis,” said Chinamasa to huge growls of disapproval from the audience which was made up of civic society players, political party activists and police detectives
who meticulous took notes.

Chinamasa is the latest in a long line of Zanu (PF) ministers who have sought to trivialise and absolve Mugabe from the Gukurahundi massacres.

Irene Petras, the Director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights (ZLHR), urged Zimbabweans to embrace the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill because it will help prevent future violence in the country.

“We have to celebrate the human rights commission; we have a number of other commissions that have failed. We also know the Media Commission even the Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission is a brand new body which holds promise because it hasn’t had any other baggage like what those other constitutional commissions has,” said Petras.

“We need to make sure that we put pressure so that the commission is properly resourced and is independent. We should not be sidelined by some of the issues that might cause us to reject the human rights commission which can help prevent future conflict in our country when it comes to elections. There is a crisis in this country and the crisis we have is the crisis of impunity.”

Some members of the civic society feel the cut-off date of February 2009 is not ideal because this means letting perpetrators of the Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and 2008 post electoral violence off the hook.

Okay Machisa, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition chairperson, said the instigators of violence in the country were known and they should simply be arrested and that has nothing to do with the human rights commission.

“The people of Zimbabwe will not forget the crimes of the past, the power of the people is amazing, you can’t forget the people. The perpetrators of violence are known, why should they not be arrested, why should we wait for the human rights commission bill to pass. People want justice these people must just be arrested,” said Machisa.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC spokesperson said: “We must have an instrument that deals with the future and the past. We know that human rights abuses in this country are not ending, that’s why we are saying let’s deal with human rights abuses now and in the future. Those who committed murder in 1980, 2008 are still guilty of murder.”

Nqobani Moyo, the smaller MDC party’s spokesperson, told the meeting that it was difficult to have the commission investigating human rights crimes in retrospect because the architects of the crimes are still in power.

“You cannot put in place a law that is supposed to investigate the people who are holding the keys of power,” said Moyo.

“Let’s be practical and be sincere to our past and our future it was impossible to apply the law going backwards now. Let’s secure the past and fight the fight for the future.”