CSOs Call for Investigation of Plaque Bombing

Matabeleland Forum, a network of civil society organisations, is worried by the ‘seemingly’ lack of action taken by police to investigate the bombing of a memorial plaque in Bhalagwe, Maphisa in Matabeleland South.

The forum is arguing that failure to investigate the incident and make headway in arresting perpetrators is a ‘huge’ indictment on the state’s complicity in covering up such a blatant crime.

This memorial plaque, the third one to be damaged, was erected at Bhalagwe Concentration Camp to honour victims of the Gukurahundi genocide but was bombed by unknown perpetrators on January 4.

The matter was reported under case number 4542320 RRB at Maphisa Police Station on January 6, 2021, around 3.45 PM. Police in Matabeleland South said the case “ is still under investigation” when reached for comment.

In a statement, Matabeleland Forum, condemned in the ‘strongest possible terms,’ the bombing act, terming it cowardly and barbaric. “Worryingly, no investigation has been done. The fact that no one has been brought to book for these heinous acts shows that the law enforcement agencies are either working in cahoots with the perpetrators, are incompetent or both,” he said.

According to witnesses, the bombing is said to have occurred in the dead of the night and Matabeleland Forum noted that due to the sound that erupted, they expected the police to conduct a thorough investigation.

“Such dereliction of duty by law enforcement would be ridiculous if it were not tragic as they are failing their core constitutional mandate, which is to extend the equal protection of the law to all persons regardless of language, ethnic origin, race, creed and gender. They are either failing or refusing to act without fear, favour or prejudice as per the dictates of the constitution,” said the forum.

The bombing, according to the civic organisations, is a brazen attempt to silence both victims and survivors, to deter them from pursuing their push for truth and justice on the Gukurahundi genocide.

“We want those responsible for this bombing to know that no amount of intimidation or threats, including use of bombs, will stop the quest for truth and justice,” said the forum.

“The bombing sadly flies in the face verbal commitments by government to foster an environment where truth, justice, healing and reconciliation can be allowed to flourish.”

Matabeleland Forum said the ‘deafening’ silence on the part of government spoke volumes of its true attitude towards the resolution of the Gukurahundi genocide.

“Not investigating the bombing and not releasing a statement on the bombing cannot be an attitude expected from a government that claims readiness to find a solution on Gukurahundi. Surely, the use of explosives outside a war to destroy a community-built memorial must never be taken lightly,” said the forum.

“The bombing is a shameless attack and infringement on the right of the victims and survivors to commemorate and remember their dead and their experiences in the Gukurahundi genocide.”

Since this is third such memorial plaque destroyed in the same place, without any arrest, Matabeleland Forum said it revealed the state is not sincere on the Gukurahundi genocide.

“Memorial plaques are significant in that they convey a forceful story about unacknowledged historical events that took place and the remembrance of individuals. Accepting such memorials to stand undisturbed is the clearest statement that society is ready to turn a page and never repeat the violations. Destroying the memorials is demonstrably a refusal to commit to new ways,” said the forum.

“The Gukurahundi genocide must not be hidden because hiding it won’t change the fact that it happened. Acknowledging it opens new possibilities that offer opportunities to address it. We demand an effective and impartial investigation of these acts. Those responsible must be brought to book.”

Matabeleland Forum commended all those who continue to push for truth and justice, expressing their solidarity with the communities who were constructing these memorials in an environment where freedom of expression is criminalised.

“All reasonable people ought to be united not only in condemning these barbaric acts but also in pushing for truth and justice on Gukurahundi.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology

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