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Chief Mathema fears Gukurahundi ‘whitewash’

Chief Mathema

Government proposed to drop the name Gukurahundi during a meeting between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Matabeleland chiefs held at State House in Bulawayo to discuss the 1980’s mass killings, it has emerged.

But the chiefs vehemently objected after dismissing the idea as an attempt to sweep the emotive matter under the carpet, Sunday Southern Eye  heard.

This was revealed by Gwanda Chief Khulumani Mathema on Monday during the premier of a Gukurahundi documentary titled: We Will Crush Them at the Asakhe Film Festival in Bulawayo.

The week-long festival focusing on transitional justice and running under the theme “Truth and Memory” began on Monday and ended on Friday.

Mathema said traditional leaders dismissed an attempt to ‘dump’ the name Gukurahundi as an attempt to ‘whitewash’ the genocide.

“It is in one of those meetings that ‘someone’ suggested dropping the name Gukurahundi,” Mathema said.

Mnangagwa who recently launched public hearings on Gukurahundi has been engaging traditional leaders in a series of discussions on Gukurahundi since 2019.

“There was a situation we had in that meeting when we were told to change the name Gukurahundi and were supposed to be given another name,” Mathe said.

Gukurahundi refers to the most terrible period of state repression in Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.

It is loosely translated to mean "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains" to describe the onslaught against the victims of the massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands.

“Someone even suggested a different title to use in place of Gukurahundi. As Matabeleland chiefs, we rejected it,” Mathema said.

“Someone provided another name and this divided the house and the rest of us chiefs rejected that. It is still Gukurahundi.”

According to Mathema, an angry Mnangagwa also once pointed a finger at him after he questioned why chiefs from Midlands were excluded from the meetings.

“I suggested that a mapping of the chieftainships affected by Gukurahundi be done,” he said.

“I asked Mnangagwa why chiefs from Midlands were excluded from these meetings or whether they will have their own…. Midlands is part of the region which was affected by Gukurahundi.

“Mnangagwa lifted his finger and pointed at me.

“ It is unsuitable for the state to impose its terms and conditions on victims regarding how Gukurahundi should be handled."

Former Ntabazinduna chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni also exposed how they once chased away the president of the Chiefs Council Fortune Charumbira from one of the meetings.

A report unveiled during the launch of the public hearings recently quoted Charumbira saying there was no need for an international commission to probe the massacres.

Ndiweni said it was not the first time that Charumbira had expressed such views.

"He (Charumbira) knows very well that at the very first meeting about the issue at State House in Bulawayo, the chiefs in Matabeleland region told him to get out of the room,” Ndiweni said.

"So we the chiefs in the region told Charumbira to vacate the room and he agreed.

“He only returned when Mnangagwa insisted on his return. So he only came back on the insistence of Mnangagwa.

“But at that point we chiefs told them both that Charumbira cannot pronounce anything on this issue.”

Mnangagwa has been accused of lacking political will to address Gukurahundi like his predecessor the late Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe described the killings as a moment of madness while Mnangagwa has opened public debate on the matter.

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