PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has conceded to popular demands to compensate families affected by the 1980s atrocities in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions commonly referred to as Gukurahundi in which he is accused playing a key role.
By Anna Chibamu
There have been calls from rights groups and affected communities to come up with comprehensive measures to bring closure to the massacres, in which an estimated 20 000 people were killed by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade between 1981 and 1986.
The then Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe (now late) sought to wish them away and never acknowledged the genocidal atrocities.
His successor, Mnangagwa, has tried to solve it, but his attempts were roundly dismissed as being so piece meal they cannot bring the much needed closure.
A good number of survivors still have no identity documentation such as birth certificates and have failed to go to secondary school while casualties lie in mass graves.
According to a statement issued by the president’s office Saturday, Mnangagwa’s administration will compensate families affected by the mass killings in a programme to be spearheaded by traditional leaders, mainly the chiefs.
The decision, the statement said, was arrived at after Mnangagwa’s Saturday meeting with the chiefs over the issue.
“The President met today 21 August,2021 with members of the National Council of Chiefs to receive recommendations to resolve the issues related to Gukurahundi,” the statement reads.
“Notably, it has been resolved that each Chief will spear head the resolution of the issue in his or her area of jurisdiction,” it says.
“A one size fit all approach would be inappropriate for this programme. Chiefs are to go back to their respective areas to consult on the issues raised. So which ever Chief is ready, the President will deploy resources to their area to support the resolution to issues in that area. The issues are traditional and should be dealt with traditionally and should not be tribalised in order to foster national building and and national healing.”
“A systematic approach to the resolution of issues raised should be adopted so that feedback is given on preparedness by a particular Chief in issues requiring attention in his or her area of jurisdiction.”
Key issues raised by the traditional leaders within the Council include identity documentation such as birth, national IDs and deaths certificates, underdevelopment and marginalization of Matabeleland region, national healing and reconciliation as well as national building, counseling and psychological support, consultation of victims, exhumations, burials and memorials, reparations and compensation and social social security benefits (pensions, social welfare, free education and health services).
“Regarding issues of exhumations and reburials, this should be done on a case by case basis custom centric and the relevant Chief should give guidance and directions,” the statement further said.
Over the past two weeks, the National Chiefs Council held several meetings with the Matabeleland Collective, CSOs and Faith Based Organisations to map way the forward on the issue.