Tribalism is a very deadly weapon, and for centuries politicians have used it to divide and conquer nations. For me, what immediately comes to mind when I think of the dire effects of tribalism, is the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Statistics differ, some say around 1 million Rwandans mostly of Tutsi origin – while some say around 800 000 – perished in a space of 100 days.
The cause of this massacre was the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994. Tutsis were blamed for this, while Tutsi leaders blame Huti extremists.
Events such as this send a chill down my spine when I think of them, and I get more afraid when I realise that the bulk of Africa has been taken advantage of by cultivating ethnic tensions.
Of late, such tensions have been growing in Zimbabwe. Emotionally charged tribal discussions are quickly becoming more and more the feature on social media, and the term Gukurahundi is at the centre of everything. Around 20 000 civilians mostly of Ndebele and Kalanga origin died at the hands of the infamous 5th Brigade in the 1980s.
The story of this massacre has largely not been discussed, younger people born in the late 80s and 90s have remained largely ignorant on the facts, but this has not stopped politicians from throwing around the term at every available moment. Thus forcing people to pick a side.
It largely resembles the situation of a hip hop fan who got invested in the 90s beef between Tupac and Notorious B.I.G without knowing the cause of the beef. Just picking a side because there is a visible animosity.
This however has left many Shona people who lost family and loved ones in the massacre without any side to align with. It has left people with mixed parentage stuck in the middle. It is driving a huge wedge between Zimbabweans in general.
Politicians have constantly poked at the wound of this dark period of history. One notable individual is Jonathan Moyo.
At the height of the Lacoste/G40 factional wars he often referred to Mnangagwa as the ‘Gukurahundist’, he often blamed the massacre on the bulk of the Lacoste faction.
But he never mentioned that Mugabe was the one at the centre of everything. Why? Because he was not sincere. He had no interest in addressing the issue, he was just willing to use it for political mileage.
The same can be said of opposition politicians like Tendai Biti who throw the term around with no real concern of what it means to real people.
For them it is all in the name of politicking. When MDC offices were allegedly bombed recently, Biti’s first tweet mentioned Gukurahundi. However when Mnangagwa signed the National Healing and Reconciliation Bill into law, there was defeaning silence from the so called proponents for the matter to be dealt with.
My fear is that politicians seem unwilling for any progress to made in regards with this issue for as long as ZANU PF is in government, and that for as long as ZANU PF is in power they will keep prodding at the wounds.
They will keep the wounds open, and they will not bother addressing the fact that it was politically driven, not tribal. They will keep the covers on the facts, and they will keep the tensions between Shona and Ndebele simmering.
However, while this is so, very few people have realised the danger of the current ‘discourse’ on Gukurahundi, and how divisive it is. One notable figure is MMatigari (twitter handle @matigary). He has taken it upon himself to demystify this occurrence.
He has done a few threads, and in one he points out that like the historical Ndebele raids on Shona people, Gukurahundi was a political act by political leadership, and the ordinary man rarely gets to profit from it.
“None of us has anything to show for the Gukurahundi atrocities and the Ndebele raids. All this is zero sum outcomes.” He points out.
“Interestingly these corrosive tribal engagements don’t quite happen in the political class, they happen among average Joes. Imagine Jonathan Moyo would sit and engage with Mugabeevery week for many years. Both their offices were at Munhumutapa. They got along.” He adds.
Need I add that not once did I hear Tendai Biti raise the Gukurahundi issue when he was in the GNU government?
Yet they are happy to stoke the fires, to poke at the wounds on social media platforms.
Who knows how it will end? Who knows what fruit these tensions will reap in the future? I am afraid to imagine.
Writer, Spoken Word Artist, Poet, Blogger
“Man’s reach should exceed his grasp…” Robert Browning