The RSA Sunday Times on uLoyiko Gukurahundi Play

The RSA Sunday Times on uLoyiko Gukurahundi Play
Published: 05 August 2018 | by Tlford Vice


A topical twist to an old massacre


Sunday Times


5 Aug 2018


By TELFORD VICE


Rape by rifle barrel. Summary castration. Cannibalism at gunpoint. Murder most casual. A theatre audience thought they had seen it all in an hour in a church hall in Observatory, Johannesburg, last Friday. But an encore more chilling than the winter’s evening outside, where the blood on the eclipsed moon was eerily apt, was to follow the Q&A session between the audience and the cast and developers of Uloyiko — the Xhosa word for fear — that came after the tension was relieved by applause.

“Do you see this?” Ayanda Manale, the play’s researcher, said from the stage as car keys were being fished out of pockets, coats buttoned, scarves adjusted.


He held up an ingiga, Ndebele for a wooden mortar of the kind in which grain is pounded by hand using a pestle. This symbol of hard work and community in many parts of Africa had seemed a mere prop, a central but innocent part of the story. But it had its own story to tell.


“An old woman who heard we were busy researching this project sent it to us; it’s more than 30 years old,” he said, still keeping aloft the hollowed chunk of tree trunk, perhaps 30 centimetres high and the circumference of a football.


“In the letter she sent with it, she wrote that five babies had been crushed to death inside it.”

Never mind car keys, you could have heard a scarf drop.


The ingiga was the past made uncomfortably real. So was the near future, because in a few days’ time Zimbabweans would vote to elect Robert Mugabe’s successor as president, eight months after the hated despot had been replaced in a coup by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy president who had fled to South Africa in fear of his life after being fired by Mugabe.


Mugabe and Mnangagwa feature prominently in Uloyiko as the chief plotters of Gukurahundi, a Shona word that former Harare newspaper editor Geoffrey Nyarota translated in his 2006 book, Against the Grain, as “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”.


Gukurahundi, the Mugabe regime said, was meant to deal with dissidents dangerous to a democracy freshly emerged from white rule. Uloyiko posits that it was in fact hatched to destroy the growing alliance between Joshua Nkomo’s Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army and Umkhonto we Sizwe that saw Chris Hani conduct operations in the Victoria Falls area.


“They didn’t care who they were dying for as long as they were dying for their South African or Matabeleland brothers,” Manale said.


The thickening bond was considered a threat to both Mugabe and the South African regime.

“The apartheid government didn’t want that so they connived with the Mugabe government to create a conspiracy theory of dissidents to destabilise the population of Matabeleland,” Manale said.

We now know that Gukurahundi was the massacre of an estimated 20,000 people in Matabeleland from 1983 to 1987 by the Fifth Brigade, a Zimbabwe army unit trained by North Koreans.


They performed brutal ethnic cleansing on tribal lines that dictated loyalties: either to the Shona Mugabe or the Ndebele Nkomo.


Their organisations had fought side by side for Zimbabwe’s liberation but the spoils of that war would not be shared. And so the blood flowed in Matabeleland. Much of it is on the hands of Mugabe and Mnangagwa, who was minister of state security at the time.


Manale is from Mpumalanga. Prosper Dlodlo, the play’s director and scriptwriter, is from KwaZuluNatal. That neither is Zimbabwean is part of the point.


“We want this story to be a lesson to South Africans because we have a lot of tribal tensions,” Manale said. “We want to discomfit people, to say that if we go that route we will also end up crushing babies. It’s a global story. ”


But Uloyiko does not point fingers. “When you blame people you immediately remove them from being part of the solution.”


In the letter she sent with it she wrote that five babies had been crushed to death inside it


- Source: Sunday Times, Republished by umthwakazireview.com

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