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The consequences of not healing: Evidence from the <i>Gukurahundi</i> violence in Zimbabwe

Dumisani Ngwenya
Geoff Harris


Between 1983 and 1987, an estimated 20 000 people from Matabeleland and parts of Midlands Province in Zimbabwe were killed by government forces in an operation code-named Gukurahundi. Since that time no official apology, justice, reparations or any form of healing process has been offered by the government which was responsible for these atrocities. Many people still suffer trauma from the events of this time.

This article reports part of a larger research project which investigated whether the survivors of Gukurahundi could heal themselves via participation over time in a group action research project directed at their healing. The present article focuses on the consequences of failing to heal, based on the experiences and attitudes of the participants. We found that to the extent that healing does not occur: trauma is passed on to the next generation, a strong desire for revenge is felt, and high levels of mistrust are maintained towards the ethnic group involved in the massacres.

Keywords: Trauma healing, violence, Gukurahundi, Zimbabwe, action research, transitional justice

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eISSN: 1562-6997