‘Gutu Must Learn Language Of Healing’: Peace Commission

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By Costa Nkomo

THE National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has reprimanded its commissioner, and spokesperson, Obert Gutu, over lack of peace building skills and use of thoughtless words that invoke emotional memories to victims of violence.

Last week, Gutu made outrageous comments referring to the Gukurahundi atrocities as only a “small, tiny fraction” that the commission was dealing with.

During that dark era, government funded, and a North Korean-trained army killed more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s.

“Gukurahundi is a small, tiny fraction of various other disputes,” Gutu said at a press briefing in Harare last week.

However, his comments were strongly condemned by Zimbabweans as they derailed the issue of bringing to a closure the Gukurahundi atrocities.

Gutu was appointed one of the NPRC commissioners in May this year, barely two months after joining Zanu PF. He was once a senior official in the opposition – MDC.

Lilian Chigwedere, the NPRC deputy chairperson, Thursday, told a joint Parliamentary portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and a Thematic Committee on Peace and Security, that use of “careless language” must be avoided in peace building processes to avoid inflicting secondary injuries to the victims.

“We know that careless language can flare up things like what happened recently,” Chigwedere said in reference to Gutu’s comments.

“Sometimes as a commission we also need to understand that there is a learning curve in terms of how to address some of these issues.

“You must also understand that as new commissioners come in, peace building is not something that you learn in one day.  You find that you come into peace building from a different perspective. You must learn the language of peace building.”

Chigwedere added that the NPRC was going through the peace building induction exercise to equip the new commissioners with peace building strategies, and how to approach sensitive issues such as the Gukurahundi atrocities.

“You have to immerse yourself into peace building,” she added, “I want to say as a commission we are working on the peace induction process to ensure that we are all on the same page as far as peace building is concerned.

“It is unfortunate that the words that were used (by Gutu) whether it was a slip of the tongue or initiation into the job is something else. But our chair had gone on the radio to indicate that the commission is seized with Gukurahundi.”

Rtd Justice Selo Nare is the chairperson of the NPRC.

Chigwedere warned if Gukurahundi remained unresolved, it was likely to cause intergenerational conflict in the country.

“The commission is very much alive to the fact that the longer the conflict remains unaddressed, the more the hidden hand takes advantage to create divisions in the nation.

“As such the commission is seized with efforts to bring closure to such conflicts as Gukurahundi and others which have potential to have intergenerational consequences.”