Police block Gukurahundi commemoration

Zimbabwe's riot police take position in the streets of Harare central district as Zimbabwe’s main opposition parties demonstrate in support of free and fair elections to be monitored by international bodies on March 22, 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe. A coalition of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe demanded the disbanding of the state-appointed electoral commission accusing the poll body of hindering free and fair elections. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

KEZI – There was drama in Kezi, Matabeleland South Province on Saturday, when Ibhetshu Likazulu pressure group activists led by Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa confronted dozens of riot police who had blocked their way to Bhalagwe, one of Gukurahundi atrocities flash points.

The visit was meant to kick-start the long journey by Ibhetshu Likazulu where they intended to honour victims of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and Midlands regions under the programme themed Dispossessed in Life and Dishonoured in Death: Bhalagwe Victims  Remembered.

A number of roadblocks and check points were set up along the Bulawayo-Kezi road, in a move which saw one of the buses carrying the former Zipra war veterans destined for the event being stopped for hours.

However, the worst was to be encountered at the turn off to Bhalagwe site just after Maphisa business centre where thousands are believed to have been thrown in a disused mine during the massacre led by the crack North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade.

Dozens of armed police, dogs and the support unit stood by the turnoff blocking the road with drums where they ordered all the vehicles and individuals making their way to the site to make a U-turn.

Among those who confronted the police were Dabengwa, MRP president Mqondisi Moyo, former National Healing minister now Ansa president Moses Mzila Ndlovu and convener Mbuso Fuzwayo.

Speaking to Daily News during the confrontation which lasted for about an hour, Dabengwa the former Home Affairs minister expressed shock by the behaviour of the law enforcers saying it was a great set back towards reconciliation efforts by the government.

“It’s shocking police are blocking us here,” the miffed Dabengwa said.

“It’s really sad, we are talking about reconciliation, we are talking about people coming together, how then do we reconcile when we continue to be treated like this.

“People want to go there and be able to appease the spirits of those who are lying in Bhalagwe,” Dabengwa said.

“There is no reconciliation, there is absolutely no reconciliation if you can stop people from going to the graves of people who were killed during Gukurahundi and it shows there is no reconciliation.”

The Zapu president who described the commemorations as crucial to national healing said efforts to engage the ministry of Home Affairs drew blanks.

“I really don’t know where the police are taking instructions from because before I came here I phoned Home Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni and he said he was going to come back to me and he didn’t do that.”

Fuzwayo said despite the clear crackdown by government, there was no going back in their efforts to remember their departed ones.

“It is sad that the government still shows heavy-handedness when dealing with issues to do with Gukurahundi. We tried to follow the legal route by informing them well in time through a written letter as required by POSA. They responded telling us there were gaps in our letter of which we complied but it’s sad that they decided to block us.”

Fuzwayo said he was aware that those were just efforts frustrate them.

“I know the whole idea is to try and ensure that people of Matabeleland don’t talk about the atrocities, but we are not giving up, we are still strategising and we will sit down and come up with the way forward.” – Daily News