By NQOBANI NDLOVU
A PROPOSAL by Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, for government to stay the ongoing exhumation of Gukurahundi victims until a legal framework has been put in place has torched a storm, with activists accusing him of wanting to frustrate the process.
Mudenda recently told participants attending a capacity building workshop organised by the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee in
Bulawayo that until there was a law to guide the process, all exhumations must be halted.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged to facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims among a cocktail of measures aimed at addressing the
1980s mass killings in the country.
Bulawayo-based Ukuthula Trust, an independent body of forensic archaeologists and forensic anthropologists, has been carrying out the exhumations, the latest being the bodies of Justin Tshuma and Thembi Ngwenya in Tsholotsho’s Enkwalini community in May. The couple was killed by the Fifth Brigade in March 1983.
The organisation has also been part of the Missing Persons Task Team (MPTT), a team of experts that works in South Africa to recover those who were reported as
missing to the South African Truth Commission.
Mbuso Fuzwayo, the coordinator of Ibhetshu LikaZulu pressure group that has been pushing for redress of the Gukurahundi atrocities, accused Mudenda of wanting
to frustrate the whole process.
“It is a deliberate move to stop the exhumations because the perpetrators feel exposed. It is enough evidence even to those who were denying that there was
genocide, so they want to derail it by abusing the law,” Fuzwayo said.
Mqondisi Moyo, a victim of the atrocities and also president of the secessionist Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP), added: “As much as his argument has a
semblance of truth, we need him to tell us the role he played during the Gukurahundi genocide as he was already in Zanu PF then and was already holding an
influential position in Matabeleland North province.
“If ever, indeed, there are some laws to be followed as guidelines, why did it take all this long to raise them?”
Artwell Sibanda, spokesperson of the opposition United Movement for Devolution (UMD) led by former MDC chairperson and ex-Speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo,
echoed similar sentiments.
“We also need to have the current burial sites marked and establish the truth behind the deaths of the innocent people of Matabeleland who bore the brunt of
the genocidal acts perpetrated by the Zanu PF regime. We need to bring closure to the Gukurahundi issue, but we cannot wish it away by delaying the process,”
The exhumations and reburial of the victims are one of the recommendations of the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice report on Gukurahundi: Breaking the
Silence, Building True Peace: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands 1980-1988.