PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has moved to “decriminalise” open discussions on the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces and has tasked his Home Affairs minister to assist families in the reburial of victims of the atrocities.
This was revealed in Bulawayo Tuesday by Justice Ministry Permanent Secretary, Virginia Mabhiza following Mnangagwa’s meeting with civil society organisations under the auspices of the Matebeleland Collective in the country’s second largest city last month.
Mabhiza said government has come up with an implementation matrix that will partially address the region‘s concerns including the emotive Gukurahundi, in which an estimated 20 000 civilians died in the hands of the military soon after independence.
During the meeting, held 21 March this year, more than 70 organisations represented by over 100 civic and religious leaders met Mnangagwa at State House in Bulawayo and raised various issues including the “decriminalisation” of Gukurahundi and lack of development in the region.
Mabhiza said government was committed to addressing some of the issues raised by the Matebeleland Collective.
“Today, I am interfacing with the Matebeleland Collective to confirm the implementation matrix which has come from the Office of the President and Cabinet.
“This is a matter which arises from the meeting that the President held with the Matebeleland Collective on the 21st of March at State House in Bulawayo.
“You are aware that the meeting was arranged to discuss a wide range of issues affecting Matebeleland region. As a result of such as discussion, the President went back and through the office of President and Cabinet, an implementation matrix was created to attend to issues discussed in the meeting,” said Mabhiza.
The senior government official said the implementation matrix will address the issue of the decriminalisation of the atrocities as well as the issue of death and birth certificates for victims and survivors.
“On open discussions of Gukurahundi, we have the law and the law allows people to freely discuss but there are reports that continuously come forth whereby people feel that they have been prevented from openly discussing Gukurahundi.
“Mechanisms for the protection of the victims should be put in place so that they are able to freely discuss their experiences,” said Mabhiza.
Under the implementation matrix, facilitation of birth and death certificates to Gukurahundi victims will be prioritised as well as the exhumation of victims’ bodies and their reburial.
“In terms of the implementation modalities, facilitation of birth certificates of victims affected by Gukurahundi is a priority. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been asked to look into the matter and work with affected communities,” she said.
On the issue of the reburials, the Permanent Secretary said the Ministry of Home Affairs has also been asked to assist affected communities in the re-burying of the victims.
“We have also the issue of exhumation or reburials of victims. In terms of implementation modalities, the government will now allow the exhumation and reburial of victims in an orderly and legal manner.
“Again the Ministry of Home Affairs has been tasked to do that and implementation can also be done upon request by the affected communities,” she said.
The implementation matrix will also include the provision of medical assistance, alignment of Local Governance legislation with the new constitution, as well as devolution and the implementation of the Zambezi Water Project.