This week we touch on a controversial topic which many would not want to talk or write about. We believe that as a nation we need to open the skeletons in the closet. The topic of Gukurahundi has
been taboo in Zimbabwean politics and now than ever we expect to hear from various people what they think about this sensitive issue.
Most politicians and academics are not comfortable to talk about this topic.
If we do not discuss these divisive issues at length, then we are failing ourselves as well as future generations to come.
The major aim of this article is to encourage Zimbabweans to remain united.
In the 1980s, the new state of Zimbabwe was still faced with the insurmountable task of trying to build a nation out of various ethnic groups, each with its own agenda.
The revolutionaries were all very much aware of the deep tribal divisions within Zimbabwean society. The war had temporarily united these tribes, but deep tribal fissures soon erupted just after the war.
When the nationalists took over from the white colonialists, the country had a population which was divided along ethnic lines where there were threats of political disorder stemming from tribal differences.
The new government was yet to exercise control over the varying tribal groups as well as to have authority within its territorial jurisdiction.
It was not by accident that Canaan Banana became the first President of Zimbabwe.
This was meant to neutralise tribal differences that were already rearing their ugly head at independence.
British colonialism never gave these major tribal groups a chance to reconcile their differences.
Colonial rule actually activated, worsened, heightened and enlarged ethnic differences between the Shona and the Ndebele by strengthening ethnic loyalties, segregating ethnic groups into various provinces and they even actively promoted differential treatment of ethnic groups as a matter of policy.
When civil strife broke out in Matabeleland in the 1980s, life for most people in the affected areas became solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. It was a conflict of every man against every man, a conflict of all against all and a conflict of every tribe against every tribe.
President Mugabe clearly stated that Gukurahundi was a time of madness which should never be repeated.
In this madness, each ethnic group fought for its own selfish interest.
Many political scientists have seen Gukurahundi as a Shona rejection of an inferiority stereotype, reclamation of lost glory and esteem, a triumph over the humiliation and hopelessness the Shona had endured under Ndebele dominance and also a clear message to other ethnic groups that the Shona were now in charge.
It was a reassertion of Shona dominance on the political system.
The ugly truth which many would not want to talk about is that Gukurahundi was a barbaric event in Zimbabwe's history which many Shonas secretly admire.
Such a Ku-Klux-Klan mentality should never be entertained or tolerated at all.
Whenever we talk of Gukurahundi, we tend to ignore the tensions that were between Zanu-PF and Zapu just after independence.
Have we ever bothered to ask ourselves the following questions? Why did we have two revolutionary parties fighting against the Rhodesia Front?
Why was Zanu mainly Shona and Zapu largely Ndebele?
It wasn't by coincidence that Zanu had its headquarters in Mozambique while Zapu had its in Zambia.
The nationalist leaders had divergent views on how to wage the liberation war and there are also cases where Zanla and Zipra forces would fire at each other.
At independence, not much had been done to unite these two conflicting groups.
Tension and suspicion remained very high between these two revolutionary groups and no leader was willing to address the very controversial tribal issue that was threatening to tear the whole country into an ethnic bloodbath.
The Ndebele camp also looked down upon the Shona as weaklings.
Basing on the interviews we carried out, both Zanla and Zipra ex-combatants pointed out that both sides' revulsion for each other was quite glaring.
Gukurahundi was actually a match-stick which ignited a tribal vendetta that had been seething uncontrollably between the two major ethnic groups for so many years.
This grudge had been worsened by promotions in the new Zimbabwe National Army which were mainly in favour of Zanla combatants as well as the detention of top Zapu commanders.
This raised quite a lot of suspicions within the Ndebele camp.
A good number of Zipra hardliners were also totally opposed to serving in the new Zimbabwean army under the command of Zanla commanders whom they viewed as their juniors.
Gukurahundi exposed our weaknesses as a nation.
It taught us how evil and retrogressive tribalism is.
Some of our politicians have been shedding crocodile tears over the whole issue pretending as if they were not aware of the animosity and antagonism that was taking place between the Shona and the Ndebele.
Gukurahundi was an unavoidable evil.
It was a powder keg waiting to explode and the disturbances at Entumbane acted as a catalyst to ignite it.
The grudges between the Shona and the Ndebele are older than Zanu-PF and Zapu.
They date back to the days of old.
The greater part of our hard won independence has seen various groups trying to manipulate the whole issue of Gukurahundi to satisfy their own selfish political interests.
First and foremost, politicians are now using it as the easiest way to garner support for political office while for others it is now a money-spinning business or a way of milking donors of their money by forming interest groups that pretend to be standing for the victims.
The political mobilisation and manipulation of ethnicity by the political elites is a well-crafted strategy to achieve their ambitions for higher political office.
Tribalism has become a mask to gain political power.
Magnifying tribalism polarises and politicises the already volatile ethnic situation in Zimbabwe, further eroding hopes of unity, awakening political appetites of hardcore tribalists and demagogues as well as sharpening existing personal ethnic rivalries.
Constant bickering by misguided politicians and newspaper editors who have no respect for the efforts made by President Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo in unifying Zimbabweans are in a way very dangerous as they open old wounds that will detonate a once dormant ethnic bomb.
Secondly, Gukurahundi is now being used to divide Zimbabweans.
The interest that the Americans and Europeans have shown in Matabeleland is not about garnering support for MDC-T which they already know is losing supporters to other political parties.
The western countries want to create a type of Benghazi or Kurd stronghold in Zimbabwe which is based on raw tribalism.
Issues of marginalisation and all other separatist vices are put forward as to magnify and consolidate their diabolical and evil scheme. They are now busy preparing and strategising for a future Ndebele uprising which they hope to capitalise on by intervening militarily.
This strategy of dividing people on tribal lines and later using them to destabilise their own country actually worked quite well in Iraq and Libya.
Donor funded civil society groups and some politicians are the major culprits being used to sow seeds of discontentment among the Ndebele people.
It boggles the mind how some of us easily forget the evils perpetrated on our ancestors by the same people they now embrace as their saviours.
We live as if we don't have a history of our own. Out of shame we pretend to be ignorant of the atrocities committed on our ancestors by the white race.
We are prepared to absolve the British colonisers for all the evils they unleashed on our people during the First and Second Chimurenga yet, we find it hard to pardon those of the Gukurahundi era.
We want to talk of human rights abuses when it comes to Gukurahundi, but we remain numb when it comes to the killings of innocent people by the Smith regime.
Thirdly, some human rights hypocrites are now calling for a Commission to look into the Gukurahundi issue.
Forgiveness does not come out of a truth and reconciliation commission, but it comes right from a willingness of the victims to do so.
To speak for or to stand on behalf of the victims is to deprive them of their own thoughts and feelings. We have seen over the years how various academics, journalists, clergymen, politicians and foreigners have attempted to make their dirty and retrogressive thoughts those of the victims.
The whole Gukurahundi issue has been turned in to an "I" or "we" can represent your thoughts and feelings better.
Why are we so keen to open on a past which many are trying to forget?
We have all made mistakes in the past, but that does not mean we should relive them.
Fourthly, most academic writings usually portray the Ndebele as a tribe which is at the verge of extinction.
Gatsheni-Ndlovu sees the Ndebele as a disadvantaged, neglected and heavily marginalised tribal group.
Ethnic groups which always feel disadvantaged in a political system often express fears of extinction, even when these are demographically and politically unlikely in the extreme.
The Shona are seen as Nazis on a mission to exterminate and annihilate whole Ndebele populations.
Such a mentality will never get us anywhere.
Both the Shona and the Ndebele consist of various ethnic groups who share some common cultural beliefs and traits.
Many in Matabeleland are more Shona than Ndebele.
We need to look deep at ourselves and ask each other if it is necessary for both of us Shona or Ndebele to perish like idiots only because of mere tribal differences.
Our being Zimbabwean should unite us more than ever. We don't want future generations to blame us for being so much short-sighted and ignorant.
Lastly, some among us, due to motives or reasons best known to them have come up with scapegoats whom they have heaped all the blame for the disturbances in Matabeleland.
However, the truth is that no matter how we might try to play the blame game, hostility and enmity between these tribal groups has ever been in existence dating back to our ancestors. It therefore makes no sense at all to hate and blame President Mugabe for a feud which started before he was even born. We are so ashamed to admit that tension had always been there between the two major groups even before Gukurahundi.
The genocide in Rwanda was a brutal episode in the history of mankind. The whole world watched in shock and alarm as the whole country was turned into an abattoir of human flesh. The scenes were very ugly and horrific. The hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis had gone on unabated for so long that it later declined into the well known genocide. This is exactly what happened in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s when the major tribal groups' sheathed hatred for each other later deteriorated into civil strife.
Whatever happened, we need not to waste time trying to find out who should be blamed more or less for Gukurahundi. Being one sided on the Gukurahundi issue does not get us anywhere.
Bowden B.C. Mbanje and Darlington N. Mahuku are lecturers in International Relations and Peace and Governance at Bindura University of Science Education.