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'Gukurahundi survivors denied food aid'

Mbuso Fuzwayo

HUMAN rights activists and Silobela villagers in the Midlands province on Tuesday this week gathered to remember 11 people who disappeared in January 1985, during the Gukurahundi era.

The event, to honour victims of enforced disappearances in Silobela, was organised by Ibhetshu LikaZulu amid concerns that families of abduction victims were being neglected by authorities and sidelined in food aid initiatives.

Ibhetshu LikaZulu co-ordinator Mbuso Fuzwayo yesterday confirmed holding the event.

“We were in Silobela commemorating the International Day for Enforced Disappearances. The unfortunate thing is that the families of the 11 victims are denied food aid because they are seen as anti-government by asking for truth and justice,” Fuzwayo said.

“There are 11 [people] who disappeared on January 31, 1985. The villagers who disappered are Kefasi Ndebele, Clement Baleni, Lambert Ncube, Patrick Mthethwa, Milton Ndlangamandla, Enoch Tshuma, Mbulani Mnkandla, Simon Bhozho Dube, Patrick Mthethwa, Dennis Mabhikwa (and another whose name was not given).”

The commemorations came as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) called for an end to enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe.

ZLHR urged the public to remember and reflect on the lives of victims and survivors of enforced disappearances as well as the communities disrupted by the gross human rights violations.

The International Day in Support of Victims of Enforced Disappearances is commemorated annually on August 30 to reflect on the fate and lives of all victims of enforced disappearance across the globe. It is an opportunity for citizens all over the world to lobby their respective governments to desist from the practice of enforced disappearances.

The United Nations Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances states that an enforced disappearance is the abduction, arrest and detention of a person against their will by government officials or individuals acting on behalf of the government.

“An enforced disappearance also occurs when the government directly or indirectly consents or acquiesces to the abduction, arrest or detention of persons by private individuals. An enforced disappearance is usually followed by the State’s refusal to disclose the whereabouts of the disappeared persons or a refusal to acknowledge the disappearance. This refusal to acknowledge the disappearances effectively deprives the disappeared any protection of the law,” ZLHR said.

“International law considers an enforced disappearance to be a gross violation of human rights and a crime against humanity, especially  when it is committed as part of an organised plan by ruling  authorities. The victims of enforced disappearances are often deprived of their fundamental human rights by captors. Such fundamental rights include the right to humane dignity, right to personal liberty and security of the person, the right to health, the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to life, in circumstances where the victims are killed by their captors.”

ZLHR said it had noted a worrying pattern of enforced disappearances where human rights defenders, community activists, members of opposition political parties and journalists have been targeted.

“On many occasions, the victims are abducted by suspected State agents and held incommunicado. Some of the victims have not been found to this day and their fate remains uncertain. Government has often refused to acknowledge the disappearances and even dismissed them as staged events,” ZLHR said, calling on the government to end the culture of impunity in cases of enforced disappearances perpetrated by State actors or agents.

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