Silent stories of Gukurahundi

Guest Column By Makho Precious Moyo

I have read the Catholic Justice Commission (C.J.C) report on Gukurahundi and am at pains trying to contain my tears. The atrocities committed by the fifth brigade are actually tantamount to a genocide committed by Mugabe and his regime. The witness accounts in the report are difficult to ignore. I have a question that has continued to play in my head – how can fellow Zimbabweans do such things to other Zimbabweans? – It was a complete massacre, a black vs black issue.

However I am worried that the CJC report and other reports on Gukurahundi do not touch or explore the effects and level of rape committed by the fifth brigade and Central Intelligence Organisation ( C.I.O). I believe that the psychological, and physical impact of Gukurahundi was more severe on women that it was for men. Whilst I am not saying rape is worse than murder, the scars are life long and can affect a woman’s mental well-being for life which in some cases may equal death itself.

The Women may lose confidence, self-belief, self-esteem and the ability to function normally after being raped. Some are suffering with mental health issues after going through such acts and in our Zimbabwean society we say ‘anopenga’, a derogatory term that means; she is crazy).

In this article am focusing on one character I will call Mercy Mhundwa in order to protect her identity.

Everyone who has been to Gwanda bus terminal will testify of the stories about Mercy Mhundwa who was referred to as the mad women of Gwanda bus terminus, but very few know her true story. I was born in Gwanda during the Gukurahundi era in 1983 and my mother told me that she was forced into early labour after her brother was tortured to death in front of the whole community by the fifth brigade. In other words I was born premature therefore I could have easily lost my life and would have never seen this earth but by the will of god I survived.

When I was growing up I would see Mercy Mhundwa tearing her cloths preferring to walk naked and community women would be ashamed and try to cover her as quickly as possible. To me, it was free drama until I reached the age of 18years when I started asking questions to my mother. I really wanted to know why Mercy’s condition could not be cued and for an explanation as to what actually happened to her.

The story from my mother which collaborates very well with other Gwanda residence is that Mercy was gang raped by the fifth brigade. She was married to a ZAPU well know commander and when the soldiers from fifth brigade arrived at her house looking for the husband they were greeted by a well-shaped and beautiful Mercy Mhundwa.

Despite being ill everyone will testify that she is very beautiful and such beauty has gone to waste. When the fifth brigade couldn’t find the ZAPU commander and in order to get his whereabouts the soldiers gang raped her for the whole night as a means of torture. Residents heard her screams and pleas but they could not do anything to help her escape from the fully armed soldiers.

The following day Mercy lost her mind, she is no longer the same. She lost her life in one night and no immediate counselling was given to her and until today Mercy Mhundwa is the drama queen of Gwanda bus terminal.

The story of Mercy is just a tip on the iceberg, there are thousands of women who were raped and sexually abused during Gukurahundi and no one talks about them. It seems they don’t exists and when Mthwakazi make noise about the murdered people of Matebeleland, they are pained by these visible reminders of rape victims who are ignored by our government.

The current focus on Gukurahundi should be on healing those who were affected and offering counselling to the affected victims, mostly those raped and their families. Most women remained unmarried after Gukurahundi ended and no one bothered to check why? They lost interest in sex after being raped by the soldiers.

As the debate of Gukurahundi is rages now a topical issue nationally and internationally, and as shown by the president who has recently signed the bill of healing and reconciliation into law. It is of paramount importance that women lobby for rape victims to get counselling and perpetrators bought to book.

The army has details of all soldiers that were attached to each area everyday and we need these made public. I am very confident that Mercy Mhundwa will be able to identify the men responsible for her suffering. The soldiers used rape as a weapon to get confessions and in the process shattered the lives of so many women.

Rape is a horrendous crime and its effects are dilapidating. Soldiers who raped and murdered are one and the same. Rape is worse in that the victim will live it over and over again for the rest of her life. Others would prefer to be killed than raped. These are women issues and need women involved to solve them.

  • Makho Precious Moyo is a free spirit and expresses his mind freely. For views and comments get in touch at email: makhoprecious@gmail.com