Keep your apology

Survivor of torture camps

Survivor of torture camps

By Kundai Marunya

I have an uncle who claims to have died and returned to life. I once asked him what death feels like. With his huge grin – in obvious appreciation of having someone believe in what everyone else in the family dismisses as a lie told to impress people – he said ‘In death you feel a coldness that no words can describe. There is this heavy air of darkness that just grabs you, suffocates you, making your heart feel heavily burdened. I’m sure I only survived this hideous torture because God chose to give me another chance, return me back here a changed man, to save others.’

Political violence

I don’t know if there is any truth to my uncle’s resurrection claim but if it is possible for one to return from death, then Zupco truly was an angel of death. Zupco – no relation to the bus company – was the Zanu (PF) youth chairperson. A short, dark muscular chap with big scary eyes which, at a glance, suggested drug use, matching perfectly with the scars that adorned his face.

we allow ourselves to be used by politicians to fight their wars only to be abandoned after we have outlived our usefulness.

On the rare occasions when he smiled, he displayed wide spaces where teeth once existed; the obvious result of many duels. He gave meaning to the Shona saying ‘Bhuru rinoonekwa nemavanga’ (a bull is defined by its battle scars).This was the guy responsible for setting up a Zanu (PF) torture camp in my home area, Norton. He commanded a mob of ruthless young thugs whose sole mission was to inflict pain.

For many people who lived in Norton at the time, Zupco made the 2008 election run-off as bad as is told. His trademark torture technique included heating up a stove and making the ‘traitor’ sit on it with their bare buttocks.

Nothing pleased him more than the sound of someone screaming in anguish. To some of us, who couldn’t endure the forced song and dance that took place at the torture base, the only option was to run away. Those that remained in Norton were frog-marched to the Zanu (PF) base where they were forced to chant party slogans and dance to the songs that once gave special meaning to 1980 – the year of our freedom – to our elders who have recollection of the period. Sung under those conditions, in 2008, the songs of our liberation became slogans of hatred and tyranny.

Stolen national values

This one time, I was forced to wear a Zanu (PF) bandana. It was painted with the colours of the Zimbabwe flag, but re-arranged, and personalised as if to make people believe that ‘the party’ was the nation, just as they have stolen the famous fist of liberation.

Death is inevitable; Zupco’s time came and passed. It is said that his last days were spent lying motionless on his death bed, muttering apologetic words, in a fading voice, for the untold horrors he inflicted on innocent people.

A killer repents

It is said he died a changed man, humble and God fearing. They say he regretted having tortured innocent souls for having enough courage to choose. This is the same Zupco who would use his political muscle to evade paying rent; a man who frequently beat up his wife until, in the end, she fled their matrimonial home, fearing for her life. In any beer hall quarrel he did not hesitate to attack his rival with a broken bottle.

If there is any truth about the stories of his last-minute reform, I wonder if, like my uncle, death changed Zupco.

As he drew nearer his end, he lived in poverty. The financial support was now gone. All that had left was a paltry three square metres of flea market space, which he shared with his fellow thugs. Even they abandoned him in the end, choosing to go and work in their illegal pit-sand quarries, rather than attend his funeral.

The senior politicians he helped ascend to power did not even spare a minute to pay their respects. What did they care? After all he was dead – just like the struggling Zupco bus company which they abused in their election campaign to ferry gullible rural voters into perceived opposition strongholds. Hard as it was, during that period of hyperinflation, a few of his relatives scraped together some money to give him a near-decent burial. His fellow ‘comrades’ couldn’t be bothered and left the family to bury their dead.

Love over politics

As a people we often lose sight of what’s important; building relationships with our neighbours and those in our community. Instead we allow ourselves to be used by politicians to fight their wars only to be abandoned after we have outlived our usefulness.
Zanu (PF) has a history for screwing people over.

Neo-democrats

In recent times we have seen victims of the faction wars apologising to the nation for their many wrongs. First was the former VP Joice Mujuru, who is now suddenly a champion for democracy. Temba Mliswa, well known for corruption and torture in Hurungwe is another case in point. I was most shocked to see prominent torturer and initiator of violence, Jim Kunaka, who led the Chipangano militia in Mbare, issuing an apology on the South African news station, ANN7.

I am a sceptical about these apologies. I wonder, though, if those who lost their loved ones in the violence of 2008 are ready to forgive. After all, ‘sorry’ does not have the power to revive the dead. An apology does not delete the memory of burnt backsides.

National healing

But if the apology came with sincerity from the active Zanu (PF) leaders showing real remorse for their deeds it would a first step towards national healing. The next step would be to turn themselves in for prosecution and pay reparations to the families that were destroyed, breadwinners killed or maimed; or to those that had to flee the country of their birth in order to escape death.

Till then, apology not accepted.

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Kundai Marunya is a 25 year old freelance journalist. He is the founder and chairperson of the Zimbabwe Arts Journalists Association (ZAJA).

 

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