Gukurahundi survey planned

perence_shiriBULAWAYO - A leading South Africa-based polling organisation Afrobarometer says it will conduct a survey to gauge the sentiments of people in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces about the Gukurahundi atrocities committed by the army in the two regions nearly 30 years ago. (Picture

At least 20 000 innocent civilians are said to have died during the 1980s army crackdown commonly known as Gukurahundi that was ostensibly launched to end an armed insurrection against then Prime Minister Robert Mugabes government.

Mxolisi Sibanyoni, Afrobarometer’s Outreach Manager told The Zimbabwean On Sunday here that such a survey was essential. He said there were many questions being asked about an episode in which civilians were massacred by the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade under Perence Shiri while another 30 000 “disappeared”. Efforts to trace the missing persons have met with resistance from some government officials.

A government commission probed the atrocities but the results of the probe have never been made public. Mugabe who says revisiting the matter will unnecessarily open old wound has kept the commissions report under lock and key. However, families of the dead and missing have demanded answers about the fate of their relatives. Human rights groups and aid agencies also want an official record so they can assist the victims. Sibanyoni said: “We have included questions that are related to Gukurahundi in previous surveys but we have not done anything specifically on Gukurahundi.” He did not say when exactly the survey would be conducted.

While human rights groups and Western governments began focusing serious attention on rights abuses by Mugabe only in the last 10 years after he began seizing white-owned farms, the Zimbabwean leader is accused of trampling upon the rights of opponents with his Gukurahundi military campaign launched barely three years after he took over power at independence.

The official reason for Gukurahundi was to root out a handful of armed dissidents in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces dominated by the Ndebeles who were the main backers of the then opposition PF-ZAPU party.

But historians and analysts say the real purpose of the onslaught by the armys North Korean-trained 5th Brigade was to demolish PF-ZAPUs support base. The Gukurahundi atrocities are a sore point in Zimbabwes history that Mugabe has always sought to sweep under the carpet. Despite calling the killings an act of madness, Mugabe has never personally accepted responsibility for the civilian murders or formally apologised.

The Zimbabwean strongman has also not yielded to calls by human rights groups for his government to compensate the victims of the brutal army operation. Political analysts have often suggested that Mugabe is too afraid to leave office over fears of prosecution for the rights abuses and that Zimbabweans may need to live with the fact that the octogenarian leader plans to be life president. Afrobarometer has conducted various surveys in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Mass Public Opinion Institute. Currently they are finalising an open survey on the next presidential elections in Zimbabwe.

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