WASHINGTON DC —
The killing of civilians by a crack army unit in the 1980s - a period referred to as Gukurahundi - took centre stage during a public hearing on the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo.
Local people rejected the bill saying it does not address the Fifth Brigade atrocities that left at least 20,000 people dead in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
They said there won’t be any peace and reconciliation as long as the Gukurahundi atrocities are not addressed.
The locals slammed the bill for not addressing the issue of the atrocities and others also criticized it for ‘giving too much power’ to the justice ministry in a number of instances.
Locals Reject Zimbabwe Reconcilliation Bill Not Addressing Gukurahundi Atrocities March 14, 2017 VOA Staff
Gukurahundi is a Shona language term which loosely translates to, "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains". In Zimbabwe, it has particular reference to an operation carried out by the national army's Fifth Brigade between 1983 and 1987 whereby suspected anti-government elements among the Ndebele community were identified and eliminated.
In January 1983, a crackdown by the elite Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland North was initiated to purge the dissidents. The brigade's directives apparently specified a search for local ZAPU officials and veterans of ZAPU's armed wing, the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). Seizure or detention by the Fifth Brigade was arbitrary. In Bulawayo, for instance, Ndebele men of fighting age were considered potential dissidents and therefore, guilty of subversive activities. Most selected were summarily executed or marched to reeducation camps. On occasion the Fifth Brigade also massacred large groups of Ndebele, seemingly at random—the largest such incident occurred in March 1983, when 55 civilians were shot on the banks of the Cewale River near Lupane.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe documented at least 3,750 killings and speculated that the actual number could be double that, or higher, since its coverage was limited to the Tsholotsho districts of Matabeleland North and the Matobo districts of Matabeleland South. Local Ndebele put the figure between 20,000 and 30,000. Journalist Heidi Holland referenced a death toll of 8,000 as a typical conservative estimate. In February 1983 the International Red Cross disclosed that 1,200 Ndebele had been murdered that month alone. In a unanimously adopted resolution in 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars estimated the death toll at 20,000. Zimbabwean Minister for National Security Sydney Sekeramayi countered that allegations of atrocities were part of a ZAPU disinformation programme to discredit the army. In 1992 serving Defence Minister Moven Mahachi became the first ZANU official who publicly apologised for the execution and torture of civilians by the Fifth Brigade. Five years later, Enos Nkala, former Defence Minister, described his involvement with Gukurahundi as "eternal hell" and blamed President Mugabe for having orchestrated it. Speaking at Joshua Nkomo's memorial service on 2 July 2000, Mugabe admitted that "thousands" had been killed during the campaign, calling it an "act of madness".