By Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa had a torrid time Friday at the Bulawayo State House as members of the Matabeleland Civic Society demanded answers on how the government would bring closure to the Gukurahundi atrocities, which happened in the southern region in the early 1980s.
Mnangagwa was in Bulawayo to meet with civil society organisations under the banner of Matabeleland Civic Society -formerly Matabeleland Collective.
Some former members of association boycotted the engagement, claiming that the union had been hijacked by Mnangagwa’s blue-eyed boys. Others were unhappy with Mnangagwa’s removal of Ntabazinduna chief, Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni as traditional leader late last year.
However, those who attended were also unhappy about Mnangagwa’s failure to bring closure to the Gukurahundi massacres.
Baster Magwizi, a former ZIPRA cadre and Zimbabwe National Army officer, told Mnangagwa there was need for a formal acknowledgement that Gukurahundi happened.
“We must start with and acknowledgement that Gukurahundi happened. It occurred in the past, but it is still happening,” he said.
“That public acknowledgement sets benchmarks for an apology. As ZIPRA, we are victims of Gukurahundi. We were the first victims and when we were first victimised we ran home where we were butchered with our families.
“I was in the army, I saw it. This is not acrimonious nor vengeance, but we want public acknowledgement that Gukurahundi was a traumatic experience. We don’t want to take the matter to the international arena, we believe in home grown solutions. The president must release the Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe commissions. People must know what happened in Entumbane and Seke. There must be space for full disclosure,” said Magwizi.
A youth representative, Zibusiso Moyo said youths wanted clarity of what happened during Gukurahundi.
“It has to be documented and academically taught,” he said.
In his address, Mnangagwa chose to shoot down Magwizi statements telling him he was also a founder member of ZIPRA in 1962 and there platforms the ZIPRA war veteran is aware of which they have been using to discuss.
Mnangagwa also said Gukurahundi required careful consideration.
“Gukurahundi requires careful consideration with due regard to families. My government is working on how best to solve this in a manner that does not offend anyone,” he said.
However, the Permanent Secretary in the Justice Ministry, Virginia Mabhiza, said the government was set to start exhumations of Gukurahundi victims.
“Exhumations are to be done orderly in a legal manner. Communities, faith-based organisations and NPRC (National Peace and Reconciliation Commission) are to work together legally,” she said.
“There were some who wanted to conduct illegal exhumations and government had to object. It was made clear that discussing Gukurahundi was not a criminal offence as long as the talks are not in bad faith or incite violence but to assist the healing process. Government hasn’t received any victimisation reports.”
Mabhiza said the Public Service and Health ministries were identified as line ministries to provide medical and psycho support services for the surviving Gukurahundi victims as counselling in communities.