Published On: Tue, Nov 1st, 2016

Memoir from a Gukurahundi Survivor

Tariro Daphne Senderayi

The undercurrent of unresolved emotions still runs deep in the political and apolitical spheres of Zimbabwe. Some talk about those raw emotions to those who are kind enough to listen but most of the affected be it survivors, victims or the families of the victims have maintained their silence for too long. Sometimes silence should not be misconstrued to reflect one’s stupidity. You do not want to cross the path of a man who has bottled up so much for so long because such crossing of paths can have devastating consequences. The grotesque massacres of the early 80’s in Zimbabwe have left many deep inconsolable scars

No one wants to talk about it, some are nonchalant about it, many become defensive when the topic rears its ugly head but for how long will this fencing game continue where the Gukurahundi issue is concerned? For how long will tiptoeing around Zimbabwe’s darkest moment take precedence over at the raw emotions and hurts of those affected? For how much longer will the rug hold this big elephant as those nonchalant characters continue to sweep such an atrocity under the bulging rug?

One social media practitioner well known for his comedy skits and pseudo character popularly known as “NaJesca”, Oliver Keith spoke of an experience on Facebook of the devastation of Gukurahundi to his family especially his grandfather. The laying bare of his emotions publicly for everyone to see opened the floodgates to so many stories and testimonies of victims, families and survivors of this horrific incident in the history of Zimbabwe. It is not easy for a man to wear his heart on his sleeve but when he does make no mistake it is for good reason. Reading through the raw, naked and heart wrenching ordeals only brought tears to anyone in touch with their emotions. It was not a pretty picture being painted here but a picture so black, devoid of any kind of life and filled with so much horror you would think it came directly from an “I am Chuckie” movie.

So much for the Mgagao Declaration to put an end to the savage genocide and plug the bleeding but what that declaration failed to address is the emotional, psychological and physical trauma various families went and are still going through as a result. One such survivor hails from Tsholotsho and has become a good friend was willing to open up about her personal experience which she likened to looking the demon that has haunted her for over 30 years square in the eye.

In the early 80’s Thandiwe had been deployed as a temporary teacher at a school called Elangeni in Tsholotsho. Zimbabwe then was now free from the clutches of its colonial master however she recalls how the air was thick with the undercurrents of something much more sinister. Unfortunately, at the time she could not put her finger on what exactly this was. There was talk that Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo was capable of actually being in the forefront of the reigns in comparison to his counterpart Robert Mugabe. This was the view because most perceived the late as a man of principle and when it came to the attainment of freedom for his people would become radical if the situation required so. This radicalism they saw and did not sit well with them, so they sought to quash it in its entirety and any remnants of it recalls Thandiwe.

Thandiwe says she was no freedom fighter at the time instead she was just a girl who wanted to teach in her rural home but the events that transpired thereafter made her a freedom fighter of sorts as she sought freedom from those who threated her and her family’s life. Having witnessed her brothers and cousin brother maimed in full view and having caught wind of the killings of 11 teachers from her school, Thandiwe decided to run. But before she had made that life changing decision, the paratroopers had already invaded Tsholotsho and there seemed to be no way out as the curfew system of the Smith regime was re-enacted. As these men made themselves feel at home in the home of others, they indeed took turns to rape her and the other youthful girls in their village as entertainment. She says it was there and then that she made up her mind to run with her life or die trying.
At 19 years of age she became a fugitive in her own homeland fleeing from a monster that gave the Smith regime a run for its money. What then became colloquially known as “dabulap” in Matabeleland and Midlands, they were the pioneers. This term was used to best describe cross border jumping with nothing but the clothes on your back. She says that she walked to her freedom running during the day and hiding in the cover of the night during night time. Her feet carried her to the South African border from Tsholotsho and despite knowledge of the feral crocodiles in the Limpopo River she risked her life to cross over to the other side.

On new soil as a second class citizen with only her determination to survive as her passport Thandiwe worked her fingers to the bone to become a qualified social worker. Social work became her trade of choice because of the trauma she had known and she wanted to put an end to that suffering in others. Through counselling and embracing the spirit of forgiveness, she is a proud mother and grandmother based in United States of America. She is my adoptive mother because in her I see myself, a woman who is true to her core and fights for justice in the various facets of life whilst putting God first. She has also decided to come home and be an agent of change and face the demon that took her away from her home.

Zimbabweans need to acknowledge this genocide that has affected certain specific tribes without downplaying the emotions of the affected. Gukurahundi happened and left a trail of destruction in its wake. As long as this eclipse in the Zimbabwean narrative is not addressed in an honest manner regardless of political skirts, the continued nonchalant reactions to people’s emotions is the gasoline that will fuel the anger and hatred.

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