Robin Muchetu and Vusumuzi Dube

TRADITIONAL leaders will now take over the exhumation and reburial of victims of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and Midlands, while the Government will fund the process as part of initiatives to bring closure and promote national healing.

The resolution came after a consultative meeting between President Mnangagwa and traditional leaders from the Matabeleland provinces at State House in Bulawayo yesterday, where the latter submitted reports compiled after consultations in their jurisdictions.

President Mnangagwa’s administration has made a commitment to confront the country’s ugly past by resolving outstanding issues associated with the disturbances that took place soon after Independence.

Government is set to start issuing civic documents to children of the victims of the disturbances, including death certificates for those who died.

Yesterday’s meeting was a follow-up to the one held on June 27 this year, where the chiefs were tasked to consult on the matter.

In August, the President 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.

After yesterday’s closed-door meeting, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said Chief Siansali of Matabeleland North presented a report on behalf of the province, while Chief Nyangazonke spoke on behalf of Matabeleland South. Five other chiefs also made their presentations.

“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 jurisdiction. Chiefs undertook to consult the affected families using

structures of village heads and headmen,” said Minister Moyo.

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

Resources to expedite the process, Minister Moyo added, would be mobilised by Government to smoothen the process.

President Mnangagwa will soon meet members of the Zimbabwe Chiefs Council to deliberate on developmental issues affecting their areas.

“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 (this 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.

Chiefs are regarded as critical as they 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 Gukurahundi, 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 Kazembe Kazembe; Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet-Presidential Communications George Charamba; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza; Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana, among other senior Government officials.