Ukuthula Trust, which was responsible for the recent successful exhumation and reburial of a Gukurahundi victim in Tsholotsho, says it is ready to assist families rebury their loved ones as part of efforts to find closure and ensure national healing.
An expert in the field of pathology and exhumations, the organisation last week assisted in the exhumation of the remains of a couple that was killed in Tsholotsho at the height of the disturbances in 1983.
The exhumation was done at Nkwalini Village in Sipepa, Tsholotsho.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Josphat Tshuma, a legal practitioner with the organisation, said families and communities were free to approach them for assistance in exhuming the remains of their loves ones.
His remarks came as Vice President Kembo Mohadi, speaking at the National Defence University, said the national healing and reconciliation process has contributed to the country’s security by removing social threats while building and fostering sustained peace and national cohesion.
VP Mohadi is responsible for the National Peace and Reconciliation portfolio in the Government.
The portfolio ensures that peace-building and conflict resolution are given the prominence they deserve nationally.
He said people who live in peace and tolerate each other and reconcile after disputes would do it to move the country forward.
“People who are at peace with each other and reconcile after disputes are not a threat to national security. The threat to national security in such a social environment is from external forces and an element, as there is peace and tranquillity within,” he said.
He said in the Second Republic, national healing and reconciliation was a vital block to peace-building.
“National healing and reconciliation is a major building block in the national peace building architecture which contributes to preservation of national security.
“In the new dispensation, the national peace building architecture originates from the Zimbabwean Constitution. Chapter 1 gives the founding values and principles of Zimbabwe which is a unitary, democratic and sovereign republic”, said VP Mohadi.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) presupposes that there have been conflicts in the past and the Government strives to ensure post-conflict justice healing and reconciliation as well as developing and implementing programmes to promote national healing, unity and peaceful resolutions to disputes.
The Government of the new dispensation has clearly articulated its peace building architecture which is part of Vision 2030.
VP Mohadi said he would embark on a peace building programme in the country’s eight provinces starting with Mashonaland Central province.
“I am going to engage in dialogue with our traditional leaders. As I carry out my outreach programmes with chiefs in the provinces, a consensus on the traditional building blocks of peace and conflict resolution will emerge.
“A template on peace building and conflict resolution that is based on our tradition and culture which is inclusive will be crafted,” he said.
He said he would be accompanied by the President and Deputy President of the Chiefs Council and leaders of Provincial Assemblies.
Mr Tshuma said families should approach his orgnisation for expert help.
“The exhumation exercise is not our own initiative. We have the expertise in pathology and exhumations and we work with affected families who need assistance in exhuming the remains of their loved ones and everything is above board.
“We then advise the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission because this exercise falls under their portfolio. In Tsholotsho, the commission, the community leadership, the police and the media were all invited to witness the exhumation,” said Mr Tshuma.
He said his organisation’s focus was on assisting communities.
“If people approach us and ask for help to exhume their loved ones for reburial we’ll be pleased to assist. We, however, do a lot of investigations before the exhumation exercise and DNA testing is also done to avoid wrong identification,” said Mr Tshuma.
The deceased couple, identified as Justin Tshuma who was aged 32 and his 21-year-old wife Thembi Ngwenya were buried in a shallow grave a few metres from the railway line where they were shot dead.
A local villager, Bernard Mpofu who later changed his surname to Mahlangu, with three other villagers were summoned by two police officers and ordered to bury the bodies.
Mr Tshuma said the late Tshuma who worked in Bulawayo during the disturbances, grew fearful for his family’s safety and travelled to his rural Tsholotsho home to pick up his wife, who was said to be pregnant with their second child.
“In an effort to flee, the couple made a dash for the train station so they could board a train to Bulawayo but they were killed before they could board the train.
“Tshuma was from Tsholotsho and his wife was from Plumtree. They left their two-year-old son in the care of his paternal grandmother. The relatives were keen to have their relatives exhumed and reburied and as an organisation, we’re happy that we have been able to assist with the exhumation,” said Mr Tshuma.
The couple`s surviving son, Xolani, is now married with three children.
NPRC chairperson, Justice Sello Nare (Retired) commended Ukuthula Trust for its work and said villagers were now free to give decent burials to their relatives.
“This is part of the healing process. President Mnangagwa said people are free to talk about Gukurahundi, discuss the way forward and even ask for assistance if there’s need for exhumations,” said Justice Nare.
President Mnangagwa signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill into law in January, which operationalised the commission that was appointed in 2016.
The Act provided for the functions, powers, operations and removal from office of the members of the Commission, manner of conducting investigations and staffing of the Commission, among others.
The NPRC was established under Sections 251 to 253 of the Constitution to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation, to develop programmes to promote national healing, unity and peaceful conflict resolution.