By Nqobani Ndlovu
A Bulawayo activist was on Friday forced to beg former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe to save him from “abduction” by police after speaking about Gukuruhundi during hearings into the August 1 army killings.
Wisdom Mkhwananzi was later beaten and arrested by police officers at a city hotel foyer and was detained at the Bulawayo Central police station for wading into the Gukurahundi massacres while giving his evidence.
Mkhwananzi is one of the witnesses who gave evidence during the drama-filled inquiry into the killing of six people in Harare by the army during post-election protests.
Chaos marred the Motlanthe commission’s visit to Bulawayo, as the unresolved Gukurahundi issue took centre stage, which saw riot police bringing water cannons to quell the disturbances.
The inquiry was twice adjourned as tempers flared, with activists demanding that the commission stops “wasting people’s time” by not showing the enthusiasm and zeal into expanding its scope and dealing with the 1980s mass killings.
Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo, an activist who also witnessed Mkhwananzi’s arrest, said the crowd tried in vain to stop the police from brutalising him.
“I could see tears and desperation on his face [after he was given a cold shoulder by the commission] and something inside me immediately told me I must attend to him and help him in whatever little way I could,” he said.
“I knew perfectly well that if police had already been ordered to arrest him there was no way he was going to evade the arrest.”
Fuzwayo said the police brutality was not warranted.
“The truth that needs to begin manifesting into our state security is that Gukurahundi issues can no longer continue to be suppressed.
“A new generation of these young people has come up. They want to talk and the best that can be done is to listen to them and provide them with platforms to talk than try to suppress them like was done to our fathers.”
Bulawayo police spokesperson Chief Inspector Precious Simango was not available for comment.
The emotive Gukurahundi issue remains unresolved decades after former president Robert Mugabe sent a North Korean-trained army unit to crush supposed opposition to his rule, resulting in the killing of over 20 000 civilians.