Prophet Chiza touched on a hot subject that many Zimbabwean politicians have hesitated and skirted on. Confronting the Gukurahundi atrocities and openly discussing this subject has been and is still difficult for many.
The Gukurahundi atrocities have been a very emotional and sensitive subject which most politicians particularly those from Zanu PF have avoided or shunned completely.
From January 1983, a campaign of terror was waged against the Ndebele people in Matabeleland in western Zimbabwe. The so-called Gukurahundi massacres remain the darkest period in the country’s post-independence history, when an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed by Robert Mugabe’s feared Fifth Brigade. Whilst a forensically accurate number will never be possible, evidence suggests that the standard estimate is conservative.
Prophet Chiza stepped up and went on his knees in front of his congregation and asked for forgiveness from the Ndebele people on behalf of all the Shona people.
Could this be the genesis of true forgiveness and reconciliation? Is the man of God leading the way and showing the politicians how to apologise? Could this be the foundation to true reconciliation?
The little that Mugabe has said since the 1980s has been a mixture of obfuscation and denial. The closest he has come to admitting official responsibility was after the death of Nkomo in 1999, when he described the early 1980s as a “moment of madness” – an ambivalent statement not since repeated. Could a clear apology from the current political leadership as shown by Prophet Chiza be the tonic that heals the nation?
Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.
In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Romans 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.
In as much as I appreciate and applaud Prophet Chiza’s gesture. I personally think that his message should have been directed more at the current political leaders. Prophet Chiza enveloped all Shonas as the offenders and consequently all Ndebeles as the offended. But those who perpetrated the atrocities did not represent all Shonas and as such not all Shonas are offenders here. Nonetheless it is a great starting point to acknowledge that something seriously wrong was done and as such tribal divisions were created by such horrific acts of the Gukurahundi. It is therefore incumbent upon the government of the day to repent and seek forgiveness and allow for the true process of reconciliation to take place.
It is difficult to genuinely restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance. We should strive to be as certain as we can of our offender’s repentance—-especially in cases involving repeated offenses. (The call for peace in Zimbabwe has echoed across the nation as we rally towards a very important election in our history) and it is my hope that we will have a free and fair election without any incidents of violence.
Our government and most of those who hold public/political office today have a checkered past, a history littered with violence and so for me Prophet Chiza’s message and gesture are a welcome lesson that the political establishment must learn from if Zimbabwe is to heal from the wounds of Gukurahundi. Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).
Of course, only God can read hearts; we must evaluate actions. As Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). We must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or appearing to be sorry must not become substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior.
May our political leaders find the courage to step up and truly repent of the Gukurahundi atrocities and may genuine reconciliation find place in our nation.
Zimbabwe is open for forgiveness and reconciliation.