By NQOBANI NDLOVU
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday pledged to facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims, provision of counselling and medical assistance to victims and survivors as well as issuance of identity documents to the affected.
This comes as government has begun the process of finding redress to the 1980’s mass killings, which claimed over 20 000 lives in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
Mnangagwa last month met clergy and civic groups from Matabeleland region under the banner, Matabeleland Collective (MC). The CSOs pressed him to shed light on what his administration was doing to attend to mounting calls for closure to the emotive issue where over 20 000 civilians were killed in the southern region by the North Korean-trained army unit, Fifth Brigade.
The meeting was held at the Bulawayo State House.
Among some of the demands by the MC at the State House meeting was for Mnangagwa to decriminalise Gukurahundi as well as allowing victims and survivors to discuss about their experiences without fear of arrest. They also pushed for the facilitation of exhumations and documentation for victims and survivors, as part of short-term deliverables on the issue.
MC convenor Trevor Masuku said government had formally responded to their concerns “in the form of an implementation matrix” that was announced by Justice ministry secretary Virginia Mabiza yesterday.
“Government will (immediately) device protection mechanisms for those affected by Gukurahundi to be free to discuss their experiences, facilitate birth certificates for victims affected by Gukurahundi, provide death certificates to dependants of Gukurahundi, allow exhumation and reburial of victims in an orderly manner, provide a special provision for medical attention to victims of Gukurahundi,” Mabiza told journalists after the closed-door meeting.
She said line ministries such as Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Health and Child Care, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Finance will implement and co-ordinate government’s implementation matrix to find redress to the Gukurahundi issue.
Thousands of Gukurahundi survivors do no not have identity documents after losing their parents and relatives during the mass killings. This has resulted in, among other things, some pupils dropping out of school after failing to write public examinations because they had no birth certificates.
However, Mabiza was non-committal on how much money government had set aside for exercises such as exhumations and reburials, preferring to only say “the issue of budget, reburials and so forth, you notice the Finance ministry is also part of the enabler of the process, so we are assured that the ministry will assist.”
Mabiza also said government will attend to issues of social service delivery through provision of schools and clinics in Matabeleland, devolve government processes by prioritising local businesses in the awarding of tenders and giving locals first preference in jobs, extend the lifespan of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and to continue engaging the MC for sustained dialogue.