Judgment reserved in exhumation case

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Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, Wednesday reserved judgment in the case where ex-Zipra combatants had sought an interdict to stop the ongoing exhumation of the remains of former liberation war fighters from a disused mineshaft in Mt Darwin by some war veterans.

Justice Mathonsi heard the matter in chambers after the Fallen Heroes Trust and all defendants cited in the application failed to turn up when the case opened in Bulawayo on Wenesday.

No opposing papers had been filed by the defendants when the matter opened.

Justice Mathonsi reserved judgment to today.

The Zipra Veterans’ Association had cited the Fallen Heroes Trust, its chairman George Rutanhire, Home Affairs co-ministers Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi, National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-ministers Sekai Holland and Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, Vice-President John Nkomo and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, as respondents.

In deferring judgment, Justice Mathonsi said he needed time to establish a locus standi (legal basis) between Zipra Veterans’ Association and the exhumations in Mt Darwin.

Mathonsi said while he understood that Zipra combatants operated in Midlands and Matabeleland during the liberation war, he wanted to establish why they were interested in exhumations being carried out in Mashonaland Central Province.

“We should establish a locus standi on the interests of Zipra in Mashonaland Central. Their mere presence in Mt Darwin could not help to establish whether their members could be some of the bodies in that mineshaft,” said Mathonsi.

However, Advocate Lucas Nkomo, who is representing the ex-Zipra combatants, said their members had indeed operated in such areas as Mashonaland West, Central, Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland.

He said Zipra Veterans’ Association had a right to be involved and consulted on the exhumations because some of its members died while others disappeared in Mt Darwin during the demobilisation era in the early 1980s when ex-Zipra and Zanla combatants at 2:1 Infantry Battalion clashed.

Nkomo also dismissed claims that the government had taken over the programme as untrue, arguing government should have sent submitted court papers to defend that position.

“What is being said in the media is not a true reflection of what is on the ground.

There are also conflicting statements on the issue in the media, with the public broadcaster saying a politburo of one party has endorsed the exhumations by the 1st (Fallen Heroes Trust) and 2nd (Rutanhire) respondents and allowed them to continue,” said Nkomo.