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Zimbabwe genocide victims must be protected during Mnangagwa hearings

by Staff reporter
02 Feb 2024 at 04:56hrs | Views
CHURCHES and civic groups yesterday called on authorities to ensure the safety of Gukurahundi victims when they testify during the upcoming public hearings.

Public hearings into the massacres are set to begin anytime this month in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces with traditional leaders leading the exercise.

It is the first time public hearings into the 1980s mass killings in Matabeleland and Midlands are being held to find closure on the emotive matter.

"Chiefs and those who testify before them must be assured of protection," the churches and civic group said in a joint statement.

"There should be no intimidation before, during or after any hearing, of any victim or panel member.

"Assurance of this is necessary, bearing in mind the fact that a witness who testified before the Motlanthe Commission in Bulawayo was arrested at the venue and later prosecuted for what he told the commission about Gukurahundi."

President Emmerson Mnangagwa opened public conversation on Gukurahundi in 2019 when he met traditional leaders at the Bulawayo State House.

His predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, suppressed debate on the mass killings, which he, however, described as a "moment of madness".

Mugabe passed away without offering any apology for sending a North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to kill civilians under the guise of fighting dissidents.

"The concerns, emotional well-being and safety of victims have to be of paramount importance throughout this process," the statement added.

"All hearings should be conducted in a way that is supportive of those who testify.

"Hearings must be free from intimidation and the presence of those who might invoke fear, including all those in uniform or who are known to represent arms of the State commonly associated with repression."

The churches and civic groups said safe and private spaces had to be assured for those who wished to make testimonies outside the public glare.

"The prevailing patriarchal norms and gender-based restrictions may prevent women, especially daughters-in-law, from telling their stories," the statement read.

"This might prevent women from coming out in large numbers leading to a depression of the number of their testimonies.

"Since the Gukurahundi atrocities were committed, affected communities have been in fear of intimidation and reprisals which may prevent them from freely telling their stories."

In its own statement, the National Transitional Justice Working Group Zimbabwe raised similar sentiments.

"The government should ensure that the hearings are transparent, inclusive and accessible to all stakeholders including survivors, victim's families, representatives of affected communities and human rights organisations," the statement read.

"The hearings should identify the perpetrators of human rights abuses and ensure that they are held accountable through fair and impartial judicial processes.

"The government should demonstrate its commitment to justice and the rule of law through the chief-led public hearings."

In January, traditional leaders underwent training on how to conduct the public hearings.

Government has not spelt out how much has been budgeted for the hearings and their time frames.

Source - southern eye