Chiefs will work with President Emmerson Mnangagwa to bring closure to the matter of civil disturbances that rocked Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s, a respected traditional leader has said.
Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe deputy president Chief Mtshane Khumalo told State media that the President had invited them to participate in healing and reconciliation efforts.
His remarks follow President Mnangagwa’s revelation in Davos, Switzerland last week that he had signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill into law to, among other issues, tackle the emotive issue better known as Gukurahundi.
He was speaking to the BBC’s Mishal Husain on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
In the interview, the President said appointing Vice-President Kembo Mohadi to head the Organ on National Peace and Reconciliation showed Government’s high-level commitment to the matter.
A National Peace and Reconciliation Commission has been appointed.
President Mnangagwa said, “We are not saying the past must be thrown away from history. It has happened, it is there. . .The communities that are affected, if they ask me to come for any reason, I will. The most important thing is that what has happened has happened. What can we do about the past? We have put up a Commission to deal with that issue.
“That should not stop us to have a better future where all the communities should be united, should co-operate, should love each other, should work together; this is the message which we have.
“We are more worried now about how in the future we should have a united Zimbabwe. In my view, there is nothing more than me putting legislation where a Commission headed by a Vice-President and most eminent persons in Zimbabwe to deal with that issue and make recommendations.
“Just recently, I had a meeting with chiefs from Matabeleland, discussing with them; because I feel there is that bad patch in our history and we would want to correct it. We would want to say wherever wrong was committed, we must say the Government of the day must apologise.
“Wherever a community suffered any injury, if it is possible to have that injury repaired, we do it. So, as a community, as a Government and as traditional leaders, we have agreed on how to deal with that issue. And I am happy that quickly, within the last 30 days or so, I have been able to put forward legislation which I signed last week.”
Chief Khumalo, whose realm covers Bubi, told this newspaper that traditional leaders were among those best-placed to help bring healing given their proximity to affected communities.
“When we met during our special meeting about two weeks ago, the President told us that he wants us to be part of the healing process on Gukurahundi. So, we are aware that we have a job to do. We stand ready to be involved in the duties that will be assigned to us once the process starts. “Most of the people who were directly affected by Gukurahundi reside in rural areas, so it is easier for them to consult and also connect with such people. We have not been informed on the role that we will play, but once the process starts, we will be involved in the process.”
Chief Khumalo added, “The Unity Accord is not dead. The people should know that the unity we enjoy today is a result of that agreement between Zapu and Zanu. So, in whatever we do, we must never undermine that unity, which also contributed to ending those disturbances.”
On his blog last week, former Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace national director Mr Nicholas Ndebele wrote: “I note that the President did not deny the fact that the massacres did happen. More than once, he repeated that ‘what happened did happen’.
“Further, he said as a way forward, he had just signed a Bill into an Act of Parliament (into law), that will engage in a process of healing, taking into account the feelings, views and suggestions of the communities that were affected.
“I find the process of taking on board the views and suggestions of the affected communities more (respectful) of the victims than a media-induced apology.”
The CCJP wrote its own report on Gukurahundi.
And spokesperson of the Mr Dumiso Dabengwa-led Zapu, Mr Iphithule Maphosa, told a local daily: “A lot of people have since commercialised the subject and most of the noises being made are not genuine.”
This was in response to repeated attempts by some politicians and the private media to score cheap points using an emotive issue.