A play that was banned by Robert Mugabe back in 2012 is finally being staged again in Zimbabwe. The play is called “1983, The Dark Years” and is about the Gukurahundi massacres that occurred during the 1980s government crackdown, during which rights groups say that 20,000 civilians were killed.
The play is written by Bhekimusa Moyo and directed by Adrian Moyo and seeks to bring national reconciliation as well as evoke emotional response to the atrocities committed. It aired at Theatre in Park from May 29th to June 2nd. After the army coup against Mugabe, the director of the play feels that political freedoms are improving.
“In my opinion we have been parking the issue of Gukurahundi for a very long time,” Davis Guzha, executive director at the theatre company that brought the show to Harare, told Reuters. If anything, because the president keeps talking about ‘Zimbabwe is open for business,’ let’s discuss everything.”
The current president Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s security minister at the time and many say he played a big role in the massacres although he has never publicly addressed it in Zimbabwe.
However, when asked about it at the Davos meeting of world leaders in January, he said,” The most important thing is that what has happened has happened. What can we do about the past? We would like to say wherever wrong was committed, the government of the day must apologise. Wherever any community has suffered any injury, if it is that injury that has to be repaired, we do it.”
This and the fact that there is a little over a month left to the July 30th elections makes the airing of this play even more significant.
“We, as a theatre group thought it is the right time to try and trigger this kind of debate whereby we need the nation to actually know what happened because as we speak the nation is divided by this term (Gukurahundi),” director and actor Adrian Musa, told Reuters after the show.
In Shona, Gukurahundi means “the early rain that washes away the chaff”.
The massacres started after Mugabe said that the government had discovered weapons hidden by former liberation fighters. These weapons allegedly belonged to the PF-ZAPU which was led by his rival, Joshua Nkomo, whom Mugabe accused of plotting an uprising. The event is still raw for many people in Zimbabwe, although during Mugabe’s rule very few people, mostly those belonging to the minority group Ndebele’s spoke openly about the Gukurahundi offensive.
“This is a very sensitive issue and where we come from in Matabeleland if you term the word Gukurahundi people will start raising their eyebrows to see who is talking,” Musa said.
Mugabe has called the period a “moment of madness.”
The play is set in Gwanda, southwest Zimbabwe, which experienced some of the worst atrocities.
A Reuters reporter found that people still want Mnangagwa and Mugage to apologize publicly and give compensations to the families of the victims when they visited Sawudeni, a village west of Harare where some of the killings took place.
The play is quite graphic. In one scene, soldiers wearing red berets hang an elderly woman on a tree and in another, soldiers high on dagga amputate a man’s leg with a bayonet and chop off the genitals of a high-school boy. In another, a woman is forced to burn her baby alive.
“In most scenes like the rape scenes and other sensitive scenes, people were actually laughing, I was not because I am more closer to the issue, I really know how it has broken people down and people need to actually forgive at least, we need for people to open up and speak out,” said Linda Mpofu, who watched the play.
“I am so emotional about this issue because we lost our loved ones during that time. I was young by then, we could not sleep at home sometimes,” said another audience member, Sipesa Moyo.
Featured Image via Wikipedia.