BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s fresh plan to address the Gukurahundi atrocities has been questioned because it excludes chiefs from the Midlands province and is silent on reparations.
Mnangagwa yesterday met chiefs from Matabeleland at the State House in Bulawayo, where they agreed that the traditional leaders would lead the exhumation of remains of people butchered by the 5th Brigade in the early years of Zimbabwe’s independence.
Chiefs from the Midlands province, which was also the target of the pogrom that left over 20 000, mostly supporters of the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo dead, were conspicuous by their absence at the Bulawayo meeting.
The province was also not mentioned in the government statement outlining the way forward in addressing the Gukurahundi issue.
Chief Mathema from Matabeleland South said the National Chiefs Council (NCC) could not be made a central player in the resolution of the Gukurahundi issue.
“The meeting is meaningless without the involvement of affected chieftainships,” Mathema said.
“Affected chieftainships should lead the process, not an outsider.
“The NCC is an outsider in this case.
“This issue does not need the chiefs’ council. It does not make any sense to have a chief from Mutare in the NCC, for example, to deliberate on the pains faced by a chief here whose area was affected by Gukurahundi.
“Over and above, we know Gukurahundi also affected Midlands but chiefs from there are being denied an opportunity to present their case. There is no sincerity in all this.
“If we are serious about this problem, affected chieftainships must be part of the process.”
Mathema is one of the chiefs from Matabeleland that have become very vocal about the resolution of the Gukurahundi issue and they have accused Mnangagwa of not being sincere.
Effie Ncube, a Bulawayo-based human rights activist said it was wrong for people implicated in the Gukurahundi atrocities to lead a process meant to address the issue.
“The starting point is to recognise that in this particular incident, it is Zanu PF and the state that committed genocide and, therefore, the leader of Zanu PF and any state official are not qualified to participate in the search for the truth and justice,” Ncube said.
“There is a need for a standalone, independent international commission for the purpose of addressing Gukurahundi.
“The role of the state should only be limited to providing an enabling environment for the commission to do its work.”
Mbuso Fuzwayo of Ibhetshu LikaZulu, a Bulawayo pressure group widely known for pushing for Gukurahundi redress, said the latest meeting over the killings showed that the government was not sincere in finding a solution to problems that arose as a result of the atrocities.
“We have said it before, and we will say it again, Mnangagwa is playing games and is not genuine [in his approach],” Fuzwayo said.
“This is a political gimmick that must be rejected by all people.
“We have said before that it is near impossible to address Gukurahundi when state actors, who were also perpetrators are seen to be leading the process.”
Leader of the secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party Mqondisi Moyo said only a truth-telling exercise will help address Gukurahundi-related problems affecting Zimbabwe.
“Mnangagwa-led negotiations are unacceptable,” Moyo said.
“How can the perpetrator be a referee? They are still not prepared to admit that they are the murderers of our people.
“They are not ready to follow the right procedure that leads to genuine redress.
“They are just doing this to blindfold the world and Matabeleland and Midlands people into believing that Zanu PF is committed to reconciliation.”
The government said yesterday’s meeting followed a two-week consultative process with unnamed Matabeleland civic society organisations and the clergy on issues affecting Matabeleland, particularly the unresolved 1980s massacres.
Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana told journalists in Bulawayo after the meeting that Mnangagwa was committed to finding a solution to problems caused by Gukurahundi .
“We need to emphasize that this programme that we are gathered here to deal with was and is a president-initiated programme,” Mangwana said.
“It is driven by the president.
“The president was not under pressure from anywhere to do this, but is doing it in the spirit of fostering peace and national healing.”
As in previous engagements, the issue of marginalisation, exhumations, reburials, documentation, reparations and compensation to the Gukurahundi victims and their surviving family members topped yesterday’s engagement with the major difference being the adoption of a victim centred approach.
“Notably, it has been resolved that each chief will spearhead the resolution of the issue in his or her area of jurisdiction,” Mangwana said.
“The process will be victim centred and will also involve key stakeholders engagement.
“It was reiterated that the Gukurahundi issue should not be tribalised in order to foster national building and healing.
“Regarding exhumations and reburials, this should be resolved on a case by case basis, custom centric and the relevant chief should give guidance and directions.
Like his predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, Mnangagwa has not offered any apology for Gukurahundi.
Mugabe only went as far as describing the killings as a moment of madness.