Gukurahundi, which way now?

The days we were growing up, back then in Masvaure area in Marange, watching domestic animals fight was a popular hobby. Dominant bulls would fight for territory. Dog fighting was, however, most entertaining.

guest column: Bornface waNgaikere Masikati

A handful of sand would usually do the trick. It only got ugly and boring when Sport, our dog would be at the biting end. Throwing a handful of sand at dogs, would cause a hullabaloo so spectacular that one dog would be torn all over if the owners would not intervene and stop the fight. The dogs would rarely stop on their own, or else more sand would be thrown at them.

The first post-independence soccer match played between Highlanders and Dynamos was dubbed “Mugabe versus Nkomo” fight. Sequential matches between these two teams have been blood and thunder.
They have a strong history of tribal violence.

We are not sure as to who coined the duo’s meetings as “The battle for Zimbabwe!” Who uploaded on Wikipedia that besides being known as the “Glamour Boys, or Chazunguza, Dynamos are also nicknamed Gukurahundi Stars?”

On May 14, 2017 at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, when Cameroonian Christian Epoupa cancelled Highlanders’ 1-0 lead, the score emanating from a purported offside position, all hell broke loose.

The noise did not erupt from the usual noise cauldron, Soweto end, but from Mpilo end that was closer to the action. Missiles made from water plastic bottles, filled with sand, rained the stadium, stopping the match for more than an hour, regardless of the fact that only about 30 minutes had been played.

We were forced to flee the stadium, with the riot police sealing the ground from outside to avoid causing stampede inside. They waited to contain the crowd and stop the usually ensuing rampage where anything in blue (for Dynamos) or Shona speakers would be manhandled on the streets.

One would clearly feel that this noise was beyond mere soccer. This was about blood. It was about Shonas against Ndebeles. Highlanders has been “Ndebelised” and none should support the team in Shona! As for the Matabele, it is always about the Gukurahundi. The energy is always there to avenge the Gukurahundi atrocities. According to those supporters at Mpilo end, Epoupa’s score was from an offside position and the near side official was another hand promoting the Shonas right there at Barbourfields, and Asifuni bumbulu (we don’t want nonsense) was what they were shouting and chanting, clamouring for the linesman’s limps.

The seed of animosity between the two tribes (Ndebeles and the various Shona groupings) was sown earlier than the “dissident” period (around 1983). History has taught us about lots of fighting and bickering between the Shonas and Ndebeles. There is no need to hide the truth like ostriches hide their heads in the sand and “man has no nobler function than to defend the truth” taught Ruth McKenny. Solomon Mutsvairo’s Chaminuka, the prophet of Zimbabwe gives a chronology of how king Mzilikazi led his armies, raiding the various Shona groupings.

Of interest is where, before he was killed, Chaminuka prophesied the coming in of the “kneeless people” who would invade and reign the country for 90 seasons. “Had we joined hands and not fought each other, I would have advised you on how we would defeat the kneeless people,” Chaminuka claimed.


Now, as people of Zimbabwe, we should learn where things went wrong; “where the rain began to beat us” according to Chinua Achebe. In Peasant Consciousness and Guerilla war in Zimbabwe, Terrence Ranger shows how, like iron and clay that can never mix, Zipra and Zanla comrades never managed to really fight from one corner in Zambia as they fought the Chimurenga war. There was chaos when chairman Herbert Chitepo of Zanu was assassinated in Zambia, which, among other things, led to the launch of war by Zanla from Mozambique, whilst Zapu maintained the Zambian base.
Bad tribal blood was clearly evident throughout the Second Chimurenga. Although there were some Shonas in Zapu echelons, still the two entities failed to oil the machine from the same pot.

Zimbabwe cannot move forward as long as we work more on the rear view mirror than the windscreen ahead of us. “Unity is power” that is what Mdhala wethu Nyongolo Nkomo realised when he buried the hatchet in 1987 and signed the Unity Accord with his Zanu PF counterparts. It was not a sign of weakness that they reached that decision.

Now, is it not like someone has thrown the sand at us so that we forget to look with disdain at the colonial atrocities where Rhodesians abused the natives and instead we hackle each other? Blacks were killed and ill-treated willy-nilly. Nyadzonia and Chimoio are all evidence of historic genocides where helpless refugees were ruthlessly butchered and razed to their deaths. The now late Rhodesian Prime Mininster Ian Smith killed the people with impunity, and nobody seems to care about that because he was neither Shona nor Ndebele!

Former President and Zanu PF leader Robert Mugabe has openly admitted that the Gukurahundi days were “times of madness” that as a country we need to forget. Now, these times of madness should not constantly be entertained to keep us mad at the expense of Zimbabwe’s development. Former Vice-President, the late John Nkomo, cherished the “Peace begins with me, peace begins with you, and peace begins with us” mantra. We cannot keep pointing fingers at each other till the end of our generation, leaving next generations to inherit the madness.

“All of us must accept to live in unity in diversity, each group assisting others, and all others assisting one so that we can live in harmony as a country,” NCG Mathema narrates (Voices of the Nyanga Mountains).

This is all we require as Zimbabwe citizens. The issue of Gukurahundi has been used as a weapon for division for much too long. Everyone has seen and still realises that this matter continues to divide Zimbabwe into two tribes that are ever warring.

The best from our history is that we find ourselves locked together in a Zimbabwe where, if we manage to join hands in peace, we would certainly experience insurmountable prosperity.

Who is always cocking us into reliving the Gukurahundi atrocities? We know that bad things have happened between Ndebeles and Shonas, and the trail runs back to the period when King Mzilikazi’s impies crossed the Limpopo and met the Shona groupings. Cecil John Rhodes and team came into the picture and a lot happened, but it never brought Shonas and Ndebeles together.

We have learnt to forgive and reconcile with Smith, who murdered Zimbabweans inside and outside the country. Now is the time that our leadership embrace the fruits of the Unity Accord. Nkomo did not join with Mugabe as a sign of surrendering. He realised that we needed to move forward as a country.

Zanu PF should take the lead to engage all concerned stakeholders and find closure to the devastating and the progress-stalling Gukurahundi matter. Or else sand throwers will engage a higher gear!

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