Zimbabwe to exhume, rebury Gukurahundi massacre victims

Graves are seen at a monument built for the victims of the campaign, unleashed by an elite North Korean-trained military unit shortly after Zimbabwean independent and known infamously as Gukurahundi (AFP Photo/ZINYANGE AUNTONY)

Harare (AFP) - Zimbabwe on Wednesday said it will exhume and rebury thousands of victims massacred during the 1980s state crackdown against dissidents, as part of a slew of measures to bring closure to one of the country's dark moments.

Citing a justice ministry official, the state-owned Herald newspaper said the government will offer medical assistance to survivors as well as issue death and birth certificates for victims of the brutal crackdown that claimed the lives of around 20,000 perceived political dissidents.

The campaign unleashed by an elite North Korean-trained military unit shortly after independence, is known infamously as Gukurahundi, which means "the rain that washes away chaff" in the local Shona language.

Government will "facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims," the paper quoted justice ministry secretary, Virginia Mabhiza as saying.

"We are also implementing protection mechanisms for those affected by Gukurahundi to be free to discuss their experiences. Some people are still suffering from various pains inflicted on them during the disturbances," she said.

Rights groups say at least 20,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed by the crack unit deployed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1983 to 1987 to crush dissidents opposed to the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s rule.

Mugabe, who was overthrown in 2017 following a brief military takeover, refused to acknowledge wrong-doing only calling it "a moment of madness."

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former close ally of Mugabe, was minister of state security at the time of the crackdown which has tainted the country's rights record.