THE government and families of people who were slain during the Gukurahundi atrocities in the 1980s — mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands — are at loggerheads over the official reference to the killings, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the government has recently stepped up its efforts to try and bring closure to one of the saddest chapters of independent Zimbabwe — which saw an estimated 20 000 people being killed by security forces in the Western and central regions of the country.
The permanent secretary in the Justice ministry, Virginia Mabiza, revealed on Friday that the government and families of the Gukurahundi killings were having differences on the causes of the victims’ deaths — which was a requirement for inclusion on their death certificates.
“People wanted the factual cause of death to be stated on the death certificates … This is an issue which we did not take for granted.
“The expectation from the community is that we write Gukurahundi as the cause of death on the certificates,” Mabiza told civil society leaders who met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.
“We are working on a legal framework that will enable us to put factual information to assist whoever requires a death certificate. This is work in progress.
“The Attorney General is waiting for further instructions from the Registrar General so that we can draft the statute to give effect to this issue of death certificates,” Mabiza added.
Thousands of people who lost their relatives during that dark period have been struggling for decades to get birth certificates and identity documents, as they could not prove that their relatives died as a result of Gukurahundi.
Matabeleland civil society leader Jenni Williams said there was need for the government to partner civil society organisations to develop an implementation format to identify people in communities who required these documents.
“A right to a birth and death certificate is a basic right … People want birth and death certificates to capture the correct information, but because of the nature of their deaths, many are told their parents died in a cross fire.
“What is that? We don’t know that. May the facts be captured in the documents,” she said during the same meeting.
Mnangagwa was in Bulawayo as part of further meetings with regional civil society and traditional leaders, to try and resolve the highly-emotive Gukurahundi saga.
Meanwhile, Mabiza also said that those who wished to carry exhumations of their loved ones needed to do that in terms of the law.
“It was brought to our attention that there were some people who had attempted to carry out illegal exhumations.
“We are working towards developing a consensus, and this will feed back into a legal framework,” she said.
Mnangagwa announced in March last year that his government had okayed the exhumation and reburial of thousands of people who died during the Gukurahundi massacres — mainly in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
The process of exhuming the bodies of victims kicked off weeks later, with the first ceremony being held at Sipepa Village in Tsholotsho — where villagers witnessed the interring of Justin Tshuma and his wife Thembi’s remains.
Apart from facilitating the re-burying of the victims, the government also committed itself to providing birth and death certificates to the children and relatives of the affected people.