Commission to open lid on past rights violations

THE National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) yesterday said it plans to keep incidences of human rights abuses open, including the Gukurahundi massacres, open until they have been resolved publicly.


Human rights groups say as many as 20 000 civilians were killed between 1983 and 1987 when former President Robert Mugabe, who then was Prime Minister, deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade in a crackdown against dissidents in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

The dissidents were said to have murdered 120 people, mutilated 25, raped 47 and committed 284 robberies in the regions.

The issue has remained thorny in local politics, with government refusing to acknowledge the massacres until Mugabe described them as a “moment of madness” in a speech at the Brethren In Christ Church in Bulawayo in late 1999.

Gukurahundi was the name given to the Fifth Brigade by Mugabe when he announced its formation.

Operation Murambatsvina in 2005 also left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, while the opposition MDC says hundreds of its supporters were killed in the bloody run-up to the 2008 presidential election run-off.

The late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the 2008 poll rerun and the resultant chaos led to the formation of the unity government from 2009 to 2013.

Responding to media questions yesterday during the commemoration of 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations offices in Harare, NPRC chairperson retired Justice Selo Masole Nare said the emotive Gukurahundi issue would get attention.

“The Gukurahundi issue is not going to be buried before a resolution,” he said.

“The violator is also carrying a burden because he has violated the law. The person who has been wronged is also carrying a burden. We are going to the people and say to them tell us what do we do.”

Nare said NPRC has been busy with the elections and now their focus is on other issues that include the Gukurahundi.

“We are on the root. We built a strategic plan and we started to look at the elections. They were our major area and the second issue was which we are going to do and to deal with is that of Gukurahundi,” he said.

“We are quite aware as a commission that people are still bleeding from inside because of that injury of Gukurahundi and hence they need to be healed. Very soon we will be spreading out to the area of Matabeleland and Midlands and dealing with the issue of Gukurahundi.”

Nare said he was aware that people had been accusing the commission of taking too long to get down on the matter, but since elections were over, their focus will be on that and consultations will be commencing soon.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week promised that his government would apologise if findings of the NPRC blamed the State for the disturbances.

Another commissioner, Patience Chiradza said from their consultations, each and every province has its particular cases and they will be going to engage them.

“We are going to look at all the issues that have been raised,” she said. The commission plans to announce its strategic plan next week,” she added.

United Nations resident co-ordinator Bishow Parajuli said the commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a reminder that it is important for everyone to observe peace for the good of the country.

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