|POLICE in Bulawayo Saturday blocked a planned memorial service for victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities.
The atrocities, which claimed an estimated 20 000 civilian lives in Matabeleland and Midlands, were carried out by the elite North Korean trained Five Brigade army unit.
Several attempts to honour the victims have been blocked by state agents and the latest attempt suffered the same fate.
The memorial service organised by Bulawayo based pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, was slated for Stanley Hall in the city’s Makokoba Township.
Baton wielding police details descended on the venue Saturday and cordoned off the area forcing a small crowd of people, who had defied a previous warning by the police not to go ahead with the event, to disperse.
The pressure group had earlier sought clearance from the police to hold the memorial but was denied.
There were indications that the organisers were going ahead with the event forcing the police to dispatch its officers.
The notification dated January 22 addressed to the group’s spokesperson, Mbuso Fuzwayo, noted that the event would cause public disorder if allowed to go ahead.
“Please be advised that this office has noted that the intended Gukurahundi memorial prayer is likely to cause public disorder.
“Therefore you are prohibited from holding this public gathering in terms of section 26!)© of the Public Order Security Act Chapter 11:17,” said Officer commanding west district, Chief Superintendent Kunene.
The police chief further advised the group to seek redress from the courts if they wanted to contest the ban.
“However, if you are not satisfied with the decision, you are free to approach the magistrates’ court,” said Superintendent Kunene.
Contacted for comment, Fuzwayo castigated the state for allegedly being insincere with healing the wounds suffered by civilians in the region.
“The government has put in place a peace and reconciliation ministry but they do not want people to speak out on some of the atrocities that have caused pain and suffering to people in this country,” said Fuzwayo.
The Gukurahundi issue surfaced recently when Herald columnist, Nathaniel Manheru described the people of Matabeleland as cry-babies and dismissed the genocide as mere myth.
This did not go down well with some people in the region who responded angrily to Manheru’s suggestion, with some penning stinging responses to his articles.
Manheru, whom many in Matabeleland see as a tribalist reflecting President Mugabe’s thinking, is believed to be the ageing leader’s spokesperson George Charamba.
It is believed he co-writes the Saturday column with bigoted academics based in both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Manheru is also seen reflecting a last ditch attempt to save Mugabe’s legacy by isolating those pushing for justice as misguided people not representative of the rest of the people of Matabeleland.
Gukurahundi was recognised as genocide by Genocide Watch about four years ago. Scholar Greg Stanton laid the blame for the crimes on Mugabe and the current VP Emmerson Mnangagwa as well as Sydney Sekeramayi, among others.
Mnangagwa was intelligence minister while Sekeramayi was defence minister during the genocide.
Recently released official documents from South Africa have shown how Mnangagwa worked hand in glove with the Botha regime to create ‘dissidents’ to justify a crackdown on the civilian population.