MATABELELAND pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu on Monday conducted a Gukurahundi memorial service at Bhalagwe mass graves in Kezi district at a time the State was commemorating Mugabe Day.
Gukurahundi witnessed the deaths of over 20 000 people from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces at the hands of the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade between 1982 and 1987.
At some point, the late former President Robert Mugabe, whose birthday is celebrated on February 21, described the massacres as “a moment of madness”.
Ibhetshu LikaZulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo yesterday said the Gukurahundi commemorations included visiting the Bhalagwe mass graves in Matobo, Matabeleland South to conduct a memorial service of the victims of the mass killings.
“We were in Bhalagwe remembering those who died at the hands of the Mugabe administration,” Fuzwayo said.
“It is wrong to say that young people must emulate Mugabe after presiding over the genocide. It is insensitive for survivors of the genocide. After the solidarity speeches, there was the laying of flowers.”
Fuzwayo said when Mugabe was still President, they tried to visit the gravesite together with the late Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa for a memorial service, but were blocked by the police.
“This (declaring February 21 a public holiday) was good for some and painful to others, but I think this was not meant to build a united nation because I remember that there was an attempt to push for July 1 to be declared a public holiday in honour of the late former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, but this was not successful.”
He said the government had been commemorating Unity Day on December 22, a date on which the pressure group vowed to hold memorial services for Gukurahundi victims.
Fuzwayo said Ibhetshu LikaZulu had also declared that every February 21, it will be commemorating those massacred during Gukurahundi.
He said Bhalagwe was of significance to the families of those killed and thrown in disused mineshafts and mass graves.
Human rights activist Effie Ncube said the people of Matabeleland could not celebrate Mugabe after he ordered the mass killings.
“We cannot be eating Mugabe’s cake. February 21 is a bad day for the people of Matabeleland,” Ncube said.
The event was attended by various political parties such as Zapu, MDC-T, Freedom Alliance, Mthwakazi Republic Party and Citizens Coalition for Change.
Chiefs Fuyane and Mathema, civic society groups, a religious leader Reverend Milson Ndlovu and Makokoba legislator James Sithole (MDC Alliance) attended the memorial service.