A local pressure group, iBhetshu LikaZulu has condemned the holding of Heroes Day celebrations at Bhalagwe, as the site is a constant reminder of victims who were killed during Gukurahundi.
The whole country celebrated Heroes Day on August 12, with the main celebrations held at the National Hereos Acre in Harare while provinces and districts their own celebrations at their local heroes acres site.
Bhalagwe was declared a Heroes Acre about 20 years ago by the Matobo Rural District Council, yet the site was one of the areas that bore the brunt of the Fifth Brigade operations, with the elite force running a concentration camp where thousands were killed and buried in mass graves.
The celebrations were officiated by Member of Parliament for Matobo North, Edgar Moyo, also the deputy minister of Primary and Secondary Education.
IBhetshu LikaZulu Secretary General, Mbuso Fuzwayo, told CITE that the Bhalagwe Hills are traditionally sacred as they carry spirits of those who butchered during the 1980s atrocities
“The Antelope mine shafts were used by the enemy to bury thousands of our people to hide the crime of genocide. We have called on authorities to preserve the evidence but allowing the site to be a Heroes Acre defeats the purpose and further discriminates the Gukurahundi victims,” he said.
Fuzwayo noted that instead of acknowledging and seeking justice for victims, the heroes acre status at Bhalagwe marginalised survivors and robbed them of their dignity.
“By celebrating liberation war heroes at Bhalagwe and suppressing Gukurahundi, which is a genocide is an insult to both liberation heroes and genocide victims who come from the same communities. This violates the memory and legacy of genocide victims from all over Matabeleland and Midlands who lie buried in mine shafts,” the secretary general said.
He added that this matter had the potential to divide Matobo communities, as locals were divided on how to celebrate their liberation war heroes while others were mourning genocide victims.
“Authorities do not realise this matter polarises Matobo communities. Celebrating Heroes Day at Bhalagwe is a denial of Gukurahundi and denialism of a genocide is a crime under international law.”
Fuzwayo claimed establishing of a heroes acre at Bhalagwe was a carefully and deliberate process by state forces that killed thousands of people, burying them under the mine shafts to destroy evidence.
“We are also concerned about the continued persecution of those who want to honour victims at Bhalagwe. They cannot even hold prayers at the site, suppression memorialisation of Gukurahundi yet other people are allowed to celebrate Heroes Day,” he said.