Mass graves found at police training camp

POLICE have uncovered mass graves at one of their training centers previously used for national youth service, reports the NewZimbabwe website.

The disclosure was made to Matabeleland North governor Thokozile Mathuthu by police chiefs while she was attending a pass-out parade at the Ntabazinduna Police Training Depot, 32km north east of Bulawayo, on Thursday.

Superintendent Ben Chabata, the second in command at the training centre, asked the governor for resources to help identify who lies in the graves. He did not say when the discovery was made.

Superintendent Chabata said they had identified two mass graves, which they had fenced off, but said police had no idea how many people were buried there. Police also had no means of determining how old the graves were.

“After the discovery of the graves, and in an effort to build relations with the local community, we invited the local chief to come and view the place after we fenced it off,” Sup. Chataba said.

“It is our wish as the Zimbabwe Republic Police to identify who lies in these graves and resources permitting we can put name tags on the graves.”

The ZRP opened the training centre in 2004, taking over the site from the Ministry of Youth Development which was using it as a base for a controversial national youth service programme.

The youth service programme was condemned by opposition parties and human rights groups who accused President Robert Mugabe’s government of brainwashing youths, training them in torture and then unleashing them to brutalise opponents during election campaigns.

Appearing slightly shaken, governor Mathuthu ordered the district administrator, Ennety Sithole, to chair a meeting between the police, traditional leaders and medical experts to work out a programme of exhuming and identifying the remains.

She told Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri: “I am very grateful to you and your local commanders for fencing these graves off, and providing shade. That shows an appreciation for our culture and respect for the dead.”

The Matabeleland region has hundreds of mass graves from the post-independence military crackdown by President Robert Mugabe, ostensibly to flush out a dozen armed dissident supporters of ZAPU leader, Joshua Nkomo.

Human rights groups say a special army unit called the 5 Brigade, trained by North Korea and reporting directly to Mugabe, indiscriminately killed civilians between 1983 and 1987, leaving more than 20,000 people dead and thousands more wounded or displaced.

In October last year, authorities at a school in Lupane reported finding a large grave with up to 60 skeletal remains of people feared killed during the crackdown known as Gukurahundi.

Shocked pupils saw bones sticking out of the ground when a football pitch caved in. The school was used by the 5 Brigade as a detention centre during its reign of terror.

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