Despite emphasis that Gukurahundi atrocities which hit Matebeleland and parts of Midlands provinces between 1982-87 were addressed enough by the late Joshua Nkomo and former president Robert Mugabe, experiences by the Shona community of Zhombe who are paying back for the dreadful encounters suffered by Ndebele people at the hands of the dreadful fifth brigade, suggest otherwise.
In last week’s visit to Donsa, a bordering village between Zhombe (Shona) and Silobela (Ndebele), 263Chat’s Lemuel Chekai came face to face with spine chilling tales of Shona speaking Zhombe villagers.
We were here for Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) consumer awareness campaign.
But unlike most awareness campaigns usually conducted in the rural areas, this one had an armed police officer monitoring proceedings. He had with him a loaded automatic machine pistol and an extra magazine.
Startled by this sight, I walked up to the police officer and asked, “what are you doing with a gun deep in the villages here, back in Harare we only see guns at the statehouse or near highly sensitive offices.”
The police officer did not bother responding to the question and called one energetic young man who introduced himself as Tafirenyika Chikwenhure.
On announcement that a journalist is keen to understand why an armed police officer was monitoring proceedings, the gentleman, who appeared to be in his early twenties, did not waste time pouring out his heart on the aching way of living they are putting up with.
“There is a place called Ntingwe just a few kilometres from here. The place is predominantly occupied by the Ndebele. These people literally rule and control our mode of existence. Having a kraal full of cattle, goats or sheep is just at their mercy because this is a people who can invade in broad daylight and confiscate livestock of their choice from your herd.
“What is more disheartening are the slim chances of recovering your herd back once it enters Ntingwe area. This is because police officers have resolved to desist from entering the area in fear of their dear lives. Many police officers have been murdered while pursuing cases in this area,” he said.
Chikwenhure added, “In 2016 my mother’s cattle and goats were stolen and on reporting the case to Zhombe Police Station, I was openly told that there was no assistance that could be offered to me if my cattle had already entered Ntingwe. To date, I still owe my inlaws some cattle for lobola because we no longer have a herd in my family,” Chikwenhure said.
He went on to narrate how the Ndebele from Ntingwe always refer back to the Gukurahundi massacres whenever they conduct their raids.
“Whenever we have an encounter with them they always refer back to Gukurahundi massacres saying it is payback time for us.”
While the people of Matebeleland call for closure to the Gukurahundi disturbances, the problems facing Zhombe people could be enough confirmation on the need for genuine truth, peace and reconciliation, something that successive governments of Robert Mugabe and President Emmerson Mnangagwa are failing to lead.
Another local by the name Marhino who had been called by Chikwenhure to add a word and buttress some of his points attested to rife violent activities that are synonymous with the area and minimum police activity in Ntingwe.
“These scars you see on my face are because of a crossfire between two parties that were fighting right by this shopping centre. A half-brick that was intended for someone else landed on my face and I earned these scars,” he said before adding, “for sure, no police officer enters Ntingwe.”
After the lengthy conversation with Chikwenhure, I turned to the police officer(name withheld) as we headed back to his station at Zhombe township. He confessed how, sometimes, they have to employ dirtiness so as to minimize murder cases in the arear.
“A week does not pass without at least three cases reported of someone hit by a machete. We have gotten so used to seeing blood because whenever people here get drunk, any small differences that arise are always settled with machetes.
“I am always with a gun when operating from this area because people here are always armed with catapults and machetes. Had we conducted a search at the event, we could have found three-quarters of them armed with either a machete or catapult,” he said before dropping off at his station.
Over 20 000 Ndebele people are believed to have died during the atrocities.