The visit was necessitated by the theft and destruction of a Gukurahundi Memorial plaque on 1 September 2021 after it had been unveiled on 30 August 2021 in commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The plaque was built in remembrance of the men known as the Silobela 12, who were abducted and disappeared on 31 January 1985.
The NTJWG and Ibhetshu Likazulu met with representatives of the families of the Silobela 12 to discuss the theft, what it signifies to them, how they would like to proceed in light of the theft, and their needs. From those discussions, the following issues arose:
- The building of memorials is a key part of healing, and the theft of the plaque is detrimental to the healing process as it re-traumatises families of victims of violence and reminds them of the events of 31 January 1985 when their loved ones were abducted.
- There is a need for counselling and trauma healing services to be urgently provided to the Silobela families to help them heal as individuals, as families, and as a community.
- Compensation is a key concern for the people of Silobela.
- The families of the Silobela 12 are struggling to find peace and to forgive the perpetrators not only because no formal apology has been issued, but also because the national authorities have not taken any action to deal with the theft of the memorial plaque which is viewed as an endorsement of the theft.
- While some families of the Silobela 12 are willing to speak out about the events of 31 January 1985, the trauma suffered by the families coupled with the theft of the memorial plaque makes others fearful and apprehensive that they might face retribution for speaking out.