Former director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Matabeleland chapter who played a pivotal role in the documentation of the Gukurahundi massacres by CCJP in the 1980s, Joel Buhlalo Silonda has died.
He was 95. The veteran human rights activist and educationist died on Saturday at his home after battling with prostate cancer for a long time.
His second-born daughter, Ntombizodwa told Southern Eye late on Sunday that her father succumbed to prostate cancer on Saturday.
The family is still to decide on the funeral arrangements.
“He was a loving, passionate, a unifier and a brave man who could fight for justice even up to the bitter end. He worked in the education sector for 38 years, where he started his education at St Patriarch’s Primary School in Bulawayo and later on became the headmaster of that school,” Ntombizodwa.
“He also went to Kutama Mission with the likes of former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, George Silundika and others. Had an extended family that includes the late general Jevan Maseko, mentored other people such as former Bulawayo mayor Abel Siwela, Swazini Ndlovu and Archbishop Pius Ncube, who later on became his spiritual mentor.”
Ntombizodwa said Silonda fought tirelessly for justice which saw him becoming the CCJP director for the Matabeleland chapter in the 1980s.
“He worked closely with people like Nicholas Ndebele and David Coltart in coming up with the report: Breaking the Silence — a report which chronicled the disturbances in Matabeleland and Midlands from 1980 to 1987,’’ she added.
Silonda was also a musician who formed the Giypys Jive Band and became Mthwakazi musical director in the 1970s, competing with other groups such as Kings Golden Choristers directed by Remington Mazabane as well as the Wings Over Jordan.
“We are also thankful for the good work he did, not only to the family, but to the general populace at large since he stood for justice locally and internationally. He died while we were in the process of finalising a family tree,’’ she said.
Silonda is survived by five children with several great and great grandchildren. Mourners are gathered at his home number S35 Mzilikazi, Bulawayo.
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