‘Chiefs alone cannot resolve Gukurahundi’

While chiefs have a traditional role to play in resolving conflicts in society, they alone cannot resolve the Gukurahundi genocide due to its complexity, human rights and criminal law expert, Siphosami Malunga, has said.

Malunga, also a programs director for the Open Society Africa (OSA) said this while delivering a public lecture on Gukurahundi in Bulawayo Wednesday.

The lecture, titled: “Whose Truth, Whose Justice? was part of the ongoing Asakhe Film Festival organised by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE).

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since entrusted chiefs with the responsibility of resolving the issue which has remained unresolved for nearly 40 years.

“My initial criticism when the decision was made to ask the chefs to deal with it was ‘what are they dealing with?’ ‘What are they being asked to deal with?’” said Malunga.

“That was my question. ‘What are they being asked to address, what are they being asked to resolve? Are we resolving the issue of people who quarrelled, which chiefs do all the time in the village? There are things that chiefs can’t resolve. Criminal cases, chiefs do not have jurisdiction over right? A chief cannot resolve a murder. He has got no jurisdiction over it because there are laws that say certain things that happen must be processed in a particular way.”

Malunga said chiefs were being given a responsibility to resolve things that “we have not yet fully defined but which on the face of it constitute crimes.”

“Broadly speaking we had Gukurahundi, there were murders, there were rapes, there was the burning of huts and houses, there was torture and you are saying chiefs can resolve all this!” he queried.

“The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is quite clear about who resolves these issues and how they are resolved.

He said entrusting chiefs alone to deal with Gukurahundi puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on them.

“The expectations that are being loaded on them to resolve Gukurahundi are too much,” decried Malunga.

“Do they even have the capability and the capacity? I am a lawyer and I have even defended many people who were accused of some of these crimes in my previous life and I know how complex and complicated it is to deal with atrocities.”

He added: “Can we seriously entrust chiefs to resolve Gukurahundi? I don’t believe that chiefs alone can resolve Gukurahundi for the reasons I have stated but I believe chiefs have a critical role to play towards resolving Gukurahundi.”

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