Bigger issues than Linda Masariraâ€™s remarks
Enough has already been said about Masariraâ€™s alleged infraction. I have no wish to remark on correctness or incorrectness of Masariraâ€™s alleged speech, especially when no audio file is available to corroborate the charge. What concerns me is something far greater than one person.
Zimbabweans are collectively guilty of sweeping beneath the rug of history several traumatic events.
Liberation war wounds
At the end of the liberation war, combatants surrendered their weapons and were flung back into society. There was, as far as I know, no post traumatic counselling.
History has a funny way of oversimplifying things. Our history books say Zanla and Zipra forces trained abroad returned to wage war again the Rhodesian army. There is no reference to the broken ankles of volunteers walking miles before they reached Zambia or Mozambique to enlist in Zipra and Zanla. There is not one mention of those whose cold bodies were discovered, dead from a snake bite, inside their sleeping bags. Until recently, the many cases of molested female combatants were kept secret. Very little reference is made in history about white people who were imprisoned or ostracised for aiding â€œthe terrorists.â€
An elder in my family used to tell us frightening tales of villagers beaten to death with sticks the size of axe handles, for being spies. None of this is documented in the textbooks that I read in school. Historyâ€™s simplicity is misleading, if not offensive, to those who lived the period under review.
It is not the shallowness of history books that troubles me. It is the fact that at the conclusion of the war, we collectively put on a show of pretence. Bob Marley sang â€œZimbabwe.â€ Thomas Mapfumo sang â€œRita, Rita, hondo yapera Ritaâ€(the war is over). We celebrated. Blown up bridges were rebuilt. The fuel tanks which had been bombed by freedom fighters were rebuilt. Schools were reconstructed and dirt roads surfaced in asphalt. But, erroneously, nobody ever thought to rebuild the minds that had been traumatised by a decade of rape, killing and torture.
I wonder if the perpetrators ever troubled to light a candle for the families of passengers who perished aboard Air Rhodesia flight 825 shot down by guerrilla forces, or the refugees caught in the Chimoio raid. The new Zimbabwe could have benefitted from a planned reconciliatory phase.
A decade of violence
No sooner had the liberation war ended, than the peace evaporated. From 1981 to 1987, the Zimbabwe National Army and police tore through Matebeleland and the Midlands â€“ more rape, more torture, more killing. Again, this is another segment of history where the narrative has been reduced to a mere push-and-shove between two quarrelling schoolboys. Gukurahundi is hardly mentioned in state media. When the atrocities of the 1980s come up, we do our damndest to spray-paint over this horrible period with a thin coat of euphemism; â€œa moment of madness….. disturbances… a regrettable period.â€
For a woman of 40 who, as a girl, clutched her rag doll while hiding under the same bed on which her mother was repeatedly violated by scores of armed men, â€œdisturbancesâ€ is hardly the word to describe that part of her life. â€œDisturbanceâ€ is when you place a â€œdo not disturbâ€ sign on the door and the housekeeping woman wakes you with her hoover.
Chaos in rural Zimbabwe
After the Unity Accord, signed this very day, by the forgiving hand of Joshua Nkomo and the authoritarian fist of Robert Mugabe, there followed a decade of calm. But this, as we came to realise, was the deceptive calm that precedes a violent storm. In 1999, the farm invasions began. This is another period trivialised by history: jobs, belongings, savings and lives lost in that bloody era. Nobody saw to those who had been displaced, there were no apologies, no attempts at mending relations in the aftermath, not one tombstone erected by government.
Another decade passed before more â€œdisturbancesâ€ claimed over 200 lives in the 2008 election violence. I have heard tales of the sort that one would only believe when inebriated. One such tale involves a baboon which, in broad daylight, swaggered up to the clearing of a rural homestead, bared its canines and, in flawless Shona, said â€œwakandiuraya, ndadzoka, chiuya undipedziseâ€. (You killed me, I have returned, come and finish me off).These are the tales spoken of by survivors of the 2008 violence. Â Perhaps these are the fabrications of idle minds. But avenging spirits are irremovable from African beliefs and, if they exist, our countryside must be littered with them.
Thabo Mbeki arrived in 2008, bungled the truce between MDC and Zanu (PF) and returned to his homeland, leaving the newly â€œunifiedâ€ leaders to proceed without attempt at public forgiveness. The bitter irony is that the resulting arrangement was sold to us as a â€œGovernment of National Unity.â€ The next five years would reveal that this â€œunityâ€ was as real as unicorns and fairies.
Reconciliation and reparations
Rwanda is an example of a country where government has taken the lead in reconciliation, post conflict.Â Beyond obtaining restorative and punitive justice, Rwandans openly hold memorials for the 800,000 victims of the 1994 genocide.
Ivory Coast has a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission â€“ however slow the wheels of justice may turn in the West African nation.Â It is hard to fathom why Gukurahundi is only spoken of in hushed tones, as if silence will make the skeletons evaporate.
Despite his faults, Phelekezela Mphoko is absolutely correct in saying he is â€œnot Emmerson Mnangagwaâ€™s junior but his equal.â€ Mphokoâ€™s outburst confirms the fragility, if not bogusness of the Unity Accord which we celebrate today.
In a marriage where relations are strained, it only takes one wrong word to spark a fight. Gukurahundi is not forgotten in Matebeleland. The statue of Nkomo, the appointment of token ex Zapu VPs may look goodÂ for photographs, but the fuse is lit and burns progressively shorter. Placing a lid over it is futile.
On this day of national unity, Masariraâ€™s (alleged) remarks are at the periphery of the agenda. What must be confronted are the many unresolved national issues burning beneath the lid.
My pen is capped
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