Government has started implementing measures to ensure healing among victims of civil disturbances that rocked the Midlands and south-western provinces during the early years of Independence, in an operation infamously referred to as Gukurahundi.
Among key interventions, that are in line with President Mnangagwa’s pledge during a meeting with civil society under the banner of Matabeleland Collective a fortnight ago, Government will issue birth and death certificates to those affected.
Government will also facilitate the exhumation and reburial of victims of Gukurahundi while medical assistance will be availed for those injured during the time while other restorative justice measures will be rolled out, making good of President Mnangagwa’s promise that his administration would not shy from confronting the ugly past.
This comes as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) takes the country through 21 days of sharing mechanisms on healing and reconciliation, starting this Sunday.
Yesterday, Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza met the Matabeleland Collective in Bulawayo and announced the implementation of a matrix of issues discussed during the earlier meeting.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage will facilitate the issuance of birth certificates and death certificates for victims affected by Gukurahundi. It will also facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims.
“We’re also implementing protection mechanisms for those affected by Gukurahundi to be free to discuss their experiences,” said Mrs Mabiza.
She said Health and Child Care and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministries would provide medical assistance to victims of Gukurahundi.
“Some people are still suffering from various pains inflicted on them during the disturbances. The Government will therefore, facilitate that these people receive medical assistance,” said Mrs Mabiza.
Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement would also prioritise the completion of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water project, which is expected to unlock economic value to communities.
“The ministry and certain players that have been identified to look into the completion of the project are expected to give monthly updates on progress made until we can give timelines on the completion.
“Another critical issue to be looked into is devolution, where we expect Government processes to be devolved by prioritising of local businesses in the awarding of tenders and giving locals first preference when filling positions,” said Mrs Mabiza.
Mrs Mabiza said her ministry would work with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to harmonise laws governing local authorities to ensure efficiency and ease in the implementation of devolution.
“The harmonisation of laws is expected to be finalised in six months. We will work with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises to ensure that there’s inclusivity of women in Parliament, Cabinet and governance structures.”
She said her ministry had resolved to extend the lifespan of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) for continuous dialogue.
Mrs Mabiza added that the Home Affairs Ministry had been tasked to investigate and report causes of police inaction and perceived insubordination during the 14 to 16 July protests.
Matabeleland Collective convener Pastor Trevor Masuku commended the OPC for responding to concerns raised by the civic society.
“We are grateful that President Mnangagwa responded to the invitation for dialogue extended to him by the Matabeleland Collective and a meeting was successfully held last month. On this historic day, more than 70 organisations represented by over 100 civic and religious leaders had a two hour frank dialogue with the President and key issues were raised.
“We called for the decriminalisation of Gukurahundi by allowing people to openly discuss their experiences. We also asked for true and factual notation on death certificates and the development of Matabeleland to prioritised,” said Pastor Masuku.
During last month’s meeting, President Mnangagwa hailed the interaction which he described as the first of its kind in terms of social dialogue.
Meanwhile, NPRC’s 21-day outreach programme includes the strategic priorities for 2019 such as public hearings for healing and reconciliation, mechanisms for early detection of conflicts, national dialogue facilitation, setting up of peace committees, evidence based legislative and policy recommendations.
Others are key thematic areas which include, complaints handling mechanisms, victim support mechanism, truth telling and truth seeking mechanism, healing, reconciliation and rehabilitation strategy, research and knowledge management strategy.
Highlighting structures in which Zimbabweans can participate for a broad based and inclusive national healing, reconciliation and peace building process are some of the issues to be covered.
Addressing a press conference in Harare yesterday, NPRC chairman Justice Selo Masole Nare encouraged the public to participate in this process that will precede the truth seeking, truth telling and public hearings.
“Between April 15 and 16, we will be in Mashonaland East, April 23 and 28 in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands, April 29 and 30 in Mashonaland Central, May 2 and 4 in Harare and Mashonaland West, May 6 and 7 in Masvingo, May 8 and 10 in Manicaland and on May 14 and 15 in Bulawayo,” he said.
The commission met Government officials, traditional leaders, churches, arts and cultural organisations, civil society, business, academia, persons with disabilities, women and youth, among others.
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.
Section 252 of the Constitution states the NPRC’s functions were to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation.
President Mnangagwa assigned Vice President Kembo Mohadi to be in charge of the Peace and Reconciliation portfolio as a show of his administration’s seriousness to dealing with the issue.