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Matebeleland pressure groups question Mnangagwa's sincerity on genocide

by Staff reporter
11 Apr 2019 at 16:15hrs | Views
A NUMBER of lawyers and pressure groups in Bulawayo have questioned the government's sincerity in bringing closure to the emotive Gukurahundi issue.

This follows President Emmerson Mnangagwa's pronouncements on the burning matter on Tuesday, which saw many of the 66 civil society organisations coalescing under the banner of Matabeleland Collective cautiously welcoming the moves - which they said were "a step in the right direction".

Mnangagwa said then that his government would okay the exhumation and reburial of thousands of people who died during the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 1980s. Apart from reburying the victims of those atrocities, the government also committed to providing birth and death certificates to the children and relatives of the victims who - for decades now - have been facing insurmountable hurdles at the Registrar General's Offices.

Prominent human rights lawyer and former Cabinet minister David Coltart was among the people and groups who told the Daily News yesterday that while Mnangagwa had "meaningful intentions" he had so far failed to address three critical issues relating to the highly-emotive matter.

"The vast majority of some 2 000 victims … interviewed in the 1990s in the production of the LRF/CCJP report ‘Breaking the Silence' said that they wanted three broad issues addressed. "Firstly, they wanted an acknowledgement that what had happened, had happened.

Secondly, they wanted an unequivocal apology from the perpetrators and, thirdly, they wanted communal reparations. "Accordingly, while the steps announced mark a step forward they do not tackle these three critical issues. "Exhumations, reburials and the issuing of birth certificates can all be done in a manner which can perpetuate untruths.

"For example, one can persist with the fiction that the deceased (whose remains are going to be exhumed) were killed by dissidents or that they were collaborating with dissidents," Coltart said.

"If he (Mnangagwa) is genuine and sincere, he will start with facilitating a genuine truth telling, which must be a process presided over by a neutral body which is trusted by the victims, not a body which he has appointed.

"That body must give victims an opportunity to state what happened to them or their loved ones and what they want government to do to achieve peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. "This top-down approach where government simply dictates what it is going to do and allow, indicates a desire to control the process," Coltart added.

iBhetshu Likazulu, a vocal pressure group which has been at the forefront of calling for justice against perpetrators of the Gukurahundi atrocities said the processes announced by Mnangagwa needed careful consideration and handling.

"Reburials must be done by competent people, but where we have problems is where the truth component is not coming out - regarding why and who did what.

"Besides, there is an issue of evidence destruction. If people are not careful, this whole process will work against victims," the group's leader Mbuso Fuzwayo said. "Communities also need to get education on how reburials are done, the steps to be followed before exhumation, and the sites where the bones will be taken to among other things," he added.

An estimated 20 000 people are said to have been killed mainly in Matabeleland and Midlands when the government deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to the two regions, to fight an insurrection.

Unity Day was subsequently set up to commemorate the Unity Accord which was later signed between Zapu and Zanu on December 22, 1987, and which ended hostilities between the two parties.

Mnangagwa, who served as ousted former president Robert Mugabe's right-hand man for nearly 54 years, last year operationalised the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) as part of his efforts to address unresolved national issues such as the Gukurahundi atrocities.

Last month, he held a crucial meeting with the Matabeleland Collective where he promised to act on their grievances - culminating in Tuesday's decisions which were announced at a follow-up meeting in Bulawayo by Justice permanent secretary Virginia Mabiza.

Source - dailynews