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Ibhetshu Lika Zulu statement on government position on gukurahundi exhumations

by Ibhetshu Lika Zulu
15 Nov 2020 at 08:03hrs | Views
Ibhetshu LikaZulu has in the past weeks consulted civic society groups, church leaders, political leaders, and individuals, to consult on the government position on Gukurahundi genocide exhumations and reburials as announced by President recently at State House after his meeting with the chiefs. All the organisations and individuals consulted agree that the government position is wrong and cannot be accepted as the right path to resolving the Gukurahundi genocide, and is accordingly rejected. We all agree that under no circumstances should there be any government-controlled exhumations and reburials of Gukurahundi genocide victims. This task should be left to independent experts under the supervision of an appropriate independent fact finding body.

We are persuaded and unanimously agreed that if government is serious about engagements then the chiefs' 28 June 2019 position paper that was presented to the government should be the basis of any engagement as it carries the most comprehensive and magnanimous approach towards the solution of the Gukurahundi issue, a dark cloud that has lingered over this country for decades. The chiefs' position is the most minimum demands upon which any solution involving the government of Zimbabwe should be based. We are therefore deeply appalled by the government position that is running straight to conduct mass exhumations and reburials, jumping all other steps that must, under all circumstances, come ahead of exhumations and reburials. Besides confirming that government is not genuine and sincere on the Gukurahundi genocide, this shows utter contempt for the chiefs' position and, most importantly, scorn for victims and survivors who contributed to the document. Healing and reconciliation cannot start with mass exhumations and reburials, and certainly not if they are conducted by government or those it controls. Instead, this should come after, among other things, an acknowledgement of the genocide, and release of the Chihambakwe and Dumbutshena commissions' reports, and be done by an independent body as part of truth telling. This point is clearly made in the chiefs' submission.

The chiefs made a clear proposal to the government, listed in chronological order and a step by step process, which has to be religiously followed. These 19 steps, include among other things, acknowledgement, truth-telling, establishment of a Gukurahundi-specific judicial commission, release of Chihambakwe and Dumbutshena commissions of enquiry, memorials, localized healing processes, exhumation and reburials, identity documents, medical support for victims, victims of rape and other forms of sexual crimes, reparations, a day of mourning and freedom to mourn and participate in truth finding, victim handling, complaint handling and psycho-social support mechanism, filling the gap opened by the killing and displacement of professionals, sincerely engage victims on how the Gukurahundi issue must be resolved, affirmative action to improve access to educational, economic and

other opportunities for survivors and victims, there is need for an appropriate legislative framework on addressing Gukurahundi atrocities, and return of Zapu and Zipra properties. We are of the view that avoiding all the other steps and choosing step number 6 is not a sincere step towards truth, accountability, closure and justice but a clear attempt to manipulate the process in favour of perpetrators and defeat the course of justice. Such an approach will not achieve what victims and survivors expect a proper process to deliver. As a result, we reject it as a complete waste of time and resources.

Therefore we wish to again advise the government not to throw away the great chiefs' submission, which is a product of wide consultations with the communities, most importantly those that were affected by this genocide. We have no doubt that the implementation of exhumations with no clear legal framework on how it is has to be done and without a clearly stated purpose is not only devious but will further cause pain and undermine those that it attempts to heal. Mass graves and shallow graves are still a crime scene and independent forensic professionals with a proven track record must be contracted to carry out this delicate process so that no information is lost, no crime scene is contaminated and that proper identification achieved.

We have noted that government has given the National Chiefs Council, led by Chief Charumbira, a supervisory role on the Gukurahundi exhumations and reburials. We believe that the National Chiefs Council in its composition represents both the perpetrators and the victims of genocide, and is therefore not a proper body to play any role in Gukurahundi exhumations and reburials. It would be a gross miscarriage of justice and fairness to have the chiefs that come from areas where perpetrators come from being the supervisors of the process. We are of a strong view that instead of playing a role in the exhumation and reburial process as being attempted by the government, in the right time these chiefs must lead the perpetrators to a truth telling and fact finding platform to account for their actions.

The government must therefore stop undermining the chiefs by dangling a carrot, a promise of community and personal funding and initiatives that will not achieve the desired goal. We want to make it clear that our chiefs are not for sale, they are pushed by the submission of their subjects, the urgent need for justice and accountability, eradicate the devastating lingering effects of Gukurahundi genocide on socioeconomic life of survivors, and create a peaceful environment and true reconciliation. Nothing short of justice will ever be acceptable to the victims and survivors of the Gukurahundi genocide.

We urge the government to stop the sideshows; truthfully and honestly commit to solve the Gukurahundi genocide crisis in our midst, sequentially follow the chiefs' proposal in all the 19 steps. This is the route to sustainable unity, peace and reconciliation. The only guarantee to peace and reconciliation is justice. Without justice, there can never be any peace and reconciliation.

Source - Ibhetshu Lika Zulu