Robin Muchetu and Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Reporters
TRADITIONAL leaders will now take over the exhumation and reburials of victims of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and Midlands while the Government will now only be involved in funding the process as part of initiatives meant to address the issue and promote national healing.

This came out after a consultative meeting between President Mnangagwa and traditional leaders from the Matabeleland provinces at State House in Bulawayo yesterday, where the traditional leaders submitted their reports on issues relating to Gukurahundi after they conducted consultations in their areas of jurisdiction.

The Second Republic under President Mnangagwa has vowed to resolve matters to do with political disturbances that took place soon after independence, known as Gukurahundi, as part of promoting national healing.

The Government is also set to start issuing birth certificates to children of some of the people who were killed during the disturbances and have been failing to get the documents and death certificates of those who died.

Since he came to power, President Mnangagwa has lived to his promise to address and openly discuss issues and challenges surrounding the unrest that happened in the 1980s in order to promote national healing and development.

Yesterday’s meeting was a follow-up to the one held on 27 June this year, where the chiefs had been tasked with going back to their communities to consult on the matter. In August, the President also met civil society groups under the banner of Matabeleland Collective to deliberate on the same issues. The Matabeleland Collective is a grouping of non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, trusts, savings clubs and other social movements from the Matabeleland region and Bulawayo.

Emerging from yesterday’s closed-door meeting, Local Government and Public Works Minister Cde July Moyo said Chief Siansali of Matabeleland North Province presented a report on behalf of the province while Chief Nyangazonke presented on behalf of Matabeleland South, with five other chiefs also making contributions.

“The consensus from the two reports was that in addressing issues on exhumations and reburials, care should be taken to respect different customs of each area and community. To that end, issues of exhumations and reburials should be led and guided by the chiefs as the custodians of customs and culture in their areas of jurisdictions. Chiefs also undertook to consult the affected families using structures of the village heads and headmen,” said Cde Moyo.

The President has previously emphasised his commitment to continue holding robust discussions with traditional leaders and Matabeleland civic groups, on matters to do with Gukurahundi stressing the need for national cohesion and collective efforts in taking the country forward.

Cde Moyo said resources to expedite the process will be mobilised by the Government to capacitate the process.

He revealed that the President will soon meet members of the Zimbabwe Chiefs Council to deliberate on developmental issues affecting their various areas. He said this was after chiefs had taken advantage of the meeting to raise developmental issues affecting their communities.

“The President acknowledged the issues which were raised by the chiefs. Going forward, His Excellency undertook to meet the Chiefs Council led by Chief Fortune Charumbira next week to map out and frame details on the next steps in moving the matter forward and also to provide comprehensive responses to ancillary issues raised by the chiefs in respect of their areas of jurisdiction and in their interest,” he said.

President of Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira said the meeting was frank and resolutions that were made showed that chiefs and Government were working harmoniously to solve the matter. Over the years, chiefs have been pushing to be included in the Gukurahundui matter since they are on the ground and better understand the grievances of their people.

“The outputs were phenomenal as there was clarity on a number of issues relating to Gukurahundi. There was a notable resonance between the chiefs and the President which was wonderful to see as it showed that minds have been synchronised on this issue. Everybody in the meeting agreed that the traditional leaders must take the lead in resolving this matter, of course working with other key stakeholders but all determined by the chiefs,” said Chief Charumbira.

He said a follow-up meeting touching on the nitty-gritties of the exercise will be held so as to ensure that everyone involved in the process is aware of their respective roles. The Matabeleland Collective which initially was spearheading the exhumations and reburials is now working with the traditional leaders to ensure the process proceeds smoothly. The chiefs also said the processes of exhumations were to start from village up to national level to ensure completeness of the whole process.

The exhumations and subsequent reburials are expected to start in Matobo, Matabeleland South Province.

A total of 63 out of 67 chiefs from the Matabeleland region attended the meeting at State House. The remaining four chiefs were absent as they are still awaiting installation.

Sources who attended the closed-door meeting said apart from the issue of Gukurahundui, the traditional leaders also briefed the President on issues around Covid-19 and other developmental bottlenecks in their areas.

The meeting was also attended by Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cde Kazembe Kazembe, Deputy Chief Secretary-Presidential Communications in the Office of the President and Cabinent Mr George Charamba, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, Minister of State of Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Cde Judith Ncube, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana, among other senior Government officials.

Follow on twitter- @NyembeziMu @vusadb