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Gukurahundi genocide workshop raises eyebrows over chief's role

by Staff reporter
19 Jan 2024 at 14:45hrs | Views
An invitation to a sensitisation meeting in Bulawayo sent to media editors regarding the Gukurahundi outreach community programme has cast doubt on the National Chiefs Council's authority over the genocide resolution process.

The invitation was sent by the Gukurahundi Steering Committee, represented by Virginia Mabiza, the Attorney General and a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

"Please be advised that the Gukurahundi Steering Committee is scheduled to convene a Media Sensitisation Meeting with editors from media houses in Zimbabwe. The purpose of the meeting is to sensitise the media sector on issues relating to Gukurahundi," Mabiza said, signing the invite as the Head of Secretariat.

"In this regard, you are cordially invited to attend the aforementioned event. The meeting is scheduled to be held on the 28th of January, 2024 at Rainbow Hotel, Bulawayo."

Using this invitation to media editors as a case in point, some activists, however, argued the chiefs are not actually in charge of the Gukurahundi resolution process.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa gave Chiefs the mandate to solve Gukurahundi when he met them at the Bulawayo State House in August 2021.

However, activists questioned why the invite "came from a steering committee and not the chiefs themselves who will be handling the outreach programmes."

"Chiefs are not in charge of the process, we can't even say the government is in charge, but it's individuals who are running it," said Mbuso Fuzwayo, Secretary General of a local pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu.

Fuzwayo claimed the process was a "private project for Emmerson (President Mnangagwa) and his inner circle which is Virginia Mabhiza and company."

"There's no independence in this exercise, it's micro-managed by a clique," he claimed.

Fuzwayo stated the institution of the traditional leadership should be independent.

"Sadly what is happening is that the chiefs are being run by the Ministry of Local Government," he claimed.

The assignment given to chiefs was met with scrutiny as some activists, including certain chiefs, said traditional leaders have no constitutional mandate to deal with the genocide as that role lied with the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).

Then-president of the National Council of Chiefs, Senator Fortune Charumbira, downplayed that criticism, arguing President Mnangagwa had given them the right assignment since they were in charge of communities.

To prove they were in control of the process, the chiefs produced two operating manuals of how they would tackle the genocide.

Volume One outlines how the chiefs arrived at this stage since their appointment in 2021, while Volume Two guides chiefs on how they will conduct engagement meetings and gather input from the affected communities.

The chiefs claimed they would roll out community consultative meetings in 2023 but after a false start, they announced they would engage Gukurahundi victims this year.

In an interview with CITE, the president of the National Chiefs Council, Chief Mtshane Khumalo, maintained the chiefs were in control of the process.

"If you ask, are we a part of, who else can be a part of this? We are the ones who are inviting the media, it is the Chiefs Council who is doing that. Whoever attends our outreach meetings is invited by the Chiefs Council. The chiefs are in control of everything," he said.

Chief Mtshane said they were still finalising some preparations before the official announcement that the outreach programmes would begin.

"We are now doing the final touches to see how we can carry out the outreach meetings when we are done with this, that's when the outreach programme will be pronounced officially," he said.

"I won't say when this outreach will officially start since January is about to end and there are preparations that are yet to be done, so it's mostly after January."

Additionally, Chief Mtshane emphasised the chiefs were a part of the programme.

"Let me put it this way, this is a programme handled by the Chiefs Council. It is being done by the council, the programme outreach, and the booklet to be used was drafted by the Chiefs Council. We will be using one and the same template in the provinces where these outreach programmes will be done," he said.

According to Chief Mtshane, the fundraising for the outreach meetings started in 2020.

"The Office of the President is the one funding, it has purchased laptops and everything that will be done in the outreach meetings," he said.

Chiefs have since reportedly received laptops, cellphones and recorders, which they will use to collect data during the community hearings.

Last month chiefs said they were ready to conduct public hearings on Gukurahundi following the training of people who will assist them to conduct the hearings.

Human Rights Activist, Effie Ncube said since the independence of the chiefs process on Gukurahundi must be unquestionable "in every conceivable way," all concerns on their independence must be addressed.

"Whether founded or unfounded, concerns about possible lack of independence must be fully addressed. Whether or not the public accepts or rejects the process and its outcome hinges no less on whether in their view the chiefs are institutionally and individually independent of external influences as they do their job," he said.

Ncube explained the institutional arrangement and framework and decision-making processes must convince the public that the chiefs can and will carry out this task without interference and undue influence.

"The optics and what people hear from those in charge must align with expectations for an objective, independent and impartial process. Every word, every phrase, every sentence, and every activity must leave no doubt," he pointed out.

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