BULAWAYO – Civic and opposition groups in Matabeleland region have challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to show commitment towards providing meaningful national healing to the victims of the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Among some of the steps that government should take, include allowing the organ on Peace, National Healing and Reconciliation, to work independent of the President’s Office.
This came out during a discussion on possibilities in the aftermath of former president Robert Mugabe departure which was organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) in conjunction with WILD and Norwegian Peoples Aid whose theme was “Post 37 years of Mugabe’s rule wither Zimbabwe and Possibilities for National Healing.”
“It’s quite a very emotive issue where we find that from this part of the region, we actually have stateless persons who don’t actually belong to Zimbabwe or to any part of the southern region.
“Because of that we become excluded from any developmental processes and you are excluded from participation. I think it’s an issue that we need to address as a nation and we need to get to the root cause of it,” said civic leader, Liberty Bhebhe.
An estimated 20 000 people were killed in a government-sanctioned operation in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces which became known as Gukurahundi.
Government said it was an operation targeted at containing insurrection which was being driven by alleged members of Zapu, claims which were dismissed by rights groups who argued that it was a well-orchestrated plan to create a one party State by Mugabe and Zanu PF.
During the discussion matters almost boiled over as panellists and delegates reacted with anger at Mnangagwa’s special adviser, Christopher Mutsvangwa, whose remarks on Gukurahundi, torched off a fresh storm on the emotive issue.
“The departure of Mugabe has revealed that change can happen so now there is an opportunity to make sure that we begin to push for the things that we need in terms of ensuring that national healing happens.
“We need an independent National Peace and Reconciliation Commission; we do not need it to be controlled from the office of the president.
Allow the commission to function, give it the tools to enable it function,” Bhebhe told delegates.
Outspoken MDC deputy national spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo said Mnangagwa and his government had an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past which have driven thousands of undocumented people into neighbouring South Africa.
“Why are people from Matabeleland scattered in South Africa because they do not have national identity cards. These are the hazards of Gukurahundi. So where are we healing here when the people who are supposed to heal have decided to eke a living in a country where they are working like dogs?,” said Khumalo.
Feisty director of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) pressure group — Jenni Williams whose organisation had many run-ins with Mugabe government — said the people of Matabeleland needed to unite on what they wanted done to have the emotive issue given full attention by the authorities.
“National healing will not occur until we decide to be united on what we want and how we want it.”