Gukurahundi, disputed polls’ frustrations manifest in Barbourfields violence 

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By Darlington Gatsi

THE way Highlanders’ supporters told a story was a warning, probably an outpouring of emotions, long suppressed.

Allan Bhasvi, tasked to handle a blockbuster encounter pitting old foes Dynamos and Highlanders, pulled a trigger that burst a bubble of emotions.

Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces have carried an emotional trauma that emanates from historical disturbances that rocked the regions after the country’s attainment of Independence.

Gukurahundi – which means the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains – perpetrated by a North Korean-trained fifth brigade killed an estimated 20 000 people.

The massacres remain a divisive issue which according to civic groups has been swept under the carpet with the government failing to heal the historic scars.

When he ascended to the presidency, replacing Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to bring to finality the Gukurahundi massacres and instituted dialogue led by National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).

This has fallen flat with little progress being made to bring closure to the victims of Gukurahundi and hold accountable the perpetrators.

Consequently, people from Bulawayo and Matabeleland have decried marginalisation playing second fiddle.

Yearning for healing and crying for recognition, Highlanders supporters, the majority of whom are from Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions, have used football as a conduit for pouring out their frustrations.

Standing at the Soweto end, Barbourfields Stadium provides a platform of expression.

Frustrations boiled in Bulawayo Sunday as Highlanders supporters ran amok ending their match against Dynamos prematurely.

Bosso fans’ songs carried political undertones and cries for recognition that the government has failed.

Coming on the backdrop of disputed polls, Highlanders’ fans could be heard singing denouncing the August polls in the previous encounter against Chicken Inn.

“Zanu rigs. Mnangagwa tell them that Zanu rigs. Chiwenga tell them Zanu rigs,” they sang.

Sunday, Bhasvi’s decision to turn a blind eye to Highlanders’ cry for a freekick appears to have pushed its multitudes of supporters over the edge.

Bosso supporters could be heard denouncing the presidency of Emmerson Mnangagwa as police charged towards them to quell the violence.

In the August elections, Bulawayo voted Zanu PF out with the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) making a clean sweep.

Peace and conflict resolution expert Lazarus Sauti said the acts are a manifestation of  Zanu PF’s failure to address Gukurahundi.

“Years after the 1982–1987 Gukurahundi genocide, anger still exists in Zimbabwe, and the ruling Zanu PF is still too proud to address the problem. People from Matabeleland are still marginalised and find it difficult to forgive the offenders. To put an end to the Gukurahundi massacre, our politicians should show regret and admit that it was genocide,” said Lazarus Sauti.

Cognisant of this, Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairman, who is also Zanu PF Member of Parliament (MP) Farai Jere castigated the political undertones saying the organisation is apolitical.

“The PSL is an apolitical sporting organisation whose objectives are to develop football and foster unity among the communities. We deplore elements who want to use football gatherings to pursue selfish and divisive interests.

“We urge clubs to educate their supporters on football Rules and Regulations. Pitch invasion and crowd trouble are serious offences that result in severe punishment for clubs,” said Jere.