Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Matabeleland have said the Human Rights Commission should be able to investigate human rights abuses going back as far as the Pioneer Column era for it to gain credibility in the eyes of Zimbabweans.
This came up at a meeting between the commission and the CSOs at a hotel in Bulawayo on Thursday.
A National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (Nango) board member, Peter Zwidekalanga Khumalo, said it was important for the commission to address the Gukurahundi atrocities because they still affected the lives of most people in the region today.
“I find it bad that the Bill says the human rights investigations will start at the time of the setting up of the inclusive government, yet there were very serious human rights violations in this country after independence that affect the day-to-day lives of other people in this region.
The Matabeleland region has been exposed to the human rights violations possibly for the longest time in this country.
“A human rights commission that starts in 2009 and neglects what happened in the 1980s is not acceptable,” he said.
Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (Macra) leader, Effie Ncube, said it must be realised the region was not just any other part of the country.
“This is the only region with a history of genocide in Southern Africa. Most people that died at that time (Gukurahundi) died because they refused to subscribe to a one-party system, they refused to support a system that does not respect human rights.
“It is the most diasporised region because of marginalisation. That is a serious human rights violation. It is different because it is the only region with the Victoria Falls, which brings in a lot of money into the country, but the people there don’t benefit from it. It is the region with the biggest power station in the country, but it is the least electrified,” he said.
Florence Ndlovu of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) said the investigation period for the commission should be open.
“It (time frame) should be open. If we have evidence of violence that happened during the Pioneer Column, that should be heard,” she said. Nango regional coordinator Goodwin Phiri said if the commission is to operate in Matabeleland and have credibility it should be prepared to confront the Gukurahundi genocide.
“If the commission does not deal with the Gukurahundi issue, it is not our commission. It can go and work elsewhere,” he said.