TEMPERS flared in Parliament yesterday when Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo said Gukurahundi was a non-issue when it comes to the issuance of birth certificates and other identification documents to children born during that era, a remark that angered opposition legislators.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Chombo was responding to MDC-T vice-president, Thokozani Khupe, who had asked him to explain how, under the new biometric system, people from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, who were struggling to obtain identification documents after their parents were massacred during the Gukurahundi era, would be assisted.
“Firstly, let me say that the issue of Gukurahundi does not arise in this particular issue, it is a non-issue,” Chombo said, courting the ire of opposition legislators, who immediately demanded he withdraw his statement.
Said Khupe: “The children do not have birth certificates because their parents were killed, and you are saying it is a non-issue. Can the minister withdraw, because it is not fair that he says the Gukurahundi is a non-issue?”
As Chombo took long to retract the remark, MDC-T MPs broke into song, chanting: “Into oyenzayo siyayizonda Chombo” (We don’t like what you are doing Chombo).
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda then intervened and asked Chombo to explain to the House the context of his statement.
“The issue that she (Khupe) raised was of lack of birth certificates or national identity cards by people in her catchment area. I wish to state very clearly that regardless of your circumstances of not having a birth certificate or identity card, the government has made it clear you can bring your relatives or anybody who knows you to testify,” Chombo explained.
But, his use of the phrase “catchment area” further enraged the opposition lawmakers, with MDC-T chief whip, Innocent
Gonese demanding a retraction.
“The minister must ensure the words that he uses are sensitive. He must withdraw the word ‘catchment’ because when he talks of someone’s catchment area, I am not sure what he is trying to insinuate to Khupe,” he said.
“The issue of Gukurahundi was acknowledged as a moment of madness by President Robert Mugabe. The question raised by Khupe is a national issue and Chombo cannot belittle or undermine Khupe’s integrity.”
Mudenda ordered Chombo to withdraw the phrase “catchment area” and ordered MPs to behave.
Chombo then acknowledged that Gukurahundi is an issue and assured legislators that children affected by the atrocities could still ask relatives or their community leaders to assist them to get identity documents.
“During the second half of this year, we will go to all provinces and provide identity documents so that people can participate as voters,” he said.
Meanwhile, State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) had a torrid time trying to black out the heated debate during its live coverage of the debate in Parliament.
ZBC, on three occasions, switched over to its main broadcasting station in an attempt to divert public attention from the Gukurahundi discussion in Parliament.
Each time the word Gukurahundi was mentioned, ZBC immediately stopped the live broadcast of the legislature’s deliberations and panned to an analyst discussion of what has happening in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora clarified his position regarding the use of livestock to pay school fees.
He said he meant that parents can sell their livestock and use the proceeds to pay fees.
“I encourage rural district councils to introduce market days, so that parents can sell their livestock to get fees for their children,” Dokora said.
“Some parents have skills such as building and, if they have no money for fees, they can offer labour to build schools.”