Pressure group barred from mass grave

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PRESSURE group Ibhetshu Likazulu was denied access to a Gukurahundi hot spot, Bhalagwe disused mine in Kezi, Matabeleland South, where it intended to hold a prayer meeting to commemorate youth day.
The group had mobilised residents from the local community to hold a prayer meeting inside the memorial site to commemorate youth day which falls on February 21, the day the late former President Robert Mugabe was born.
This was after the group wrote to the police seeking permission to access Bhalagwe.
Ibhetshu Likazzulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo told the Daily News they intended to hold a memorial on the day as Mugabe presided over the Gukurahundi massacres which claimed an estimated 20 000 unarmed civilians in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.

“As Ibhetshu Likazulu, we wanted to hold a memorial inside Bhalagwe Memorial Site on February 21. Kezi police prevented us from entering the site.

“We ended up holding our prayer meeting outside at a plaque that was destroyed last year,” Fuzwayo said.

He said the ban contradicts what President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been preaching about free discussions on Gukurahundi.

When Mnangagwa assumed office, he called on the public to freely speak about Gukurahundi and other atrocities, something that was unheard of under Mugabe’s rule.

Mugabe had made it impossible for the Gukurahundi subject to be openly discussed for which he used the dreaded Public Order and Security Act (Posa) to criminalise any gathering or act to do with the internationally condemned post-independence mass killings.

“We thought freely discussing Gukurahundi will be extended to being granted access to the mass graves where hundreds of victims are buried.

“Clearly, a lot needs to be done to address the issue because the government is clearly still sensitive.

“If locals who were affected by the massacres are not given access to Bhalagwe and other mass graves, how then are they expected to heal?” Fuzwayo queried.

Fuzwayo challenged Mnangagwa to visit the mass graves and engage affected communities to assure them of his commitment towards bringing the much needed closure.

“The president must not come to Bulawayo and preach about Gukurahundi from State House. He must visit Bhalagwe and other sites and meet survivors. He cannot resolve the issue through speaking to people about Gukurahundi from State House. He must go to the ground.”

Thousands are believed to have been thrown in a disused mine during the massacre led by the crack North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, at Bhalagwe.

The pressure group visited Bhalagwe in February last year after their first attempt was ruthlessly blocked by the late Mugabe.

Last year, the radical pressure group was cleared by the police to go ahead with their first leg of the Gukurahundi victims’ commemoration programme.

Since 2017, the pressure group has also been holding annual commemorative events in Bulawayo as part of remembering the Gukurahundi victims.

The commemorations are held on December 22, the day Mugabe and the late vice president Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo signed the Unity Accord, which brought about the end of the massacres.

In October last year, at an incident covered by Southern News, Ibhetshu Likazulu pressure group activists, led by the late Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa confronted dozens of riot police who had blocked their way to Bhalagwe.

A number of roadblocks and check points were set up along the Bulawayo-Kezi road, in a move which saw one of the buses carrying the former Zipra war veterans destined for the event being stopped for hours.

Upon reaching the turn-off to Bhalagwe site just after Maphisa Business Centre, dozens of armed police, dogs and the Support Unit stood by the turn-off blocking the road with drums where they ordered all the vehicles and individuals making their way to the site to make a U-turn.

This was after police had refused to clear the event.

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