Gukurahundi exhumations case postponed

A High Court application by Gukurahundi survivor Charles Thomas, Zapu, and Ibhetshu Likazulu to stop the impending Gukurahundi exhumations and reburials which was meant to be heard this Thursday has been postponed to next week.

An urgent High Court application Case No 1454/20 filed on August 29, 2020, sought an interdict to stop the government from carrying out the exhumations.

This follows a meeting held a fortnight ago by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Matabeleland Collective at the Bulawayo State House which discussed the issuance of birth and death certificates to Gukurahundi victims, exhumations among other issues.

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The High Court application was meant to be heard this Thursday but President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe, cited as the first and second respondents made an application for a postponement so they could have time to go through the case.

In an interview with CITE, the applicants’ lawyer, Nqobani Sithole, confirmed that High Court Judge Justice Martin Makonese postponed the matter.

“We went in briefly to the Judge; the first respondent who is the President and the minister who is the second respondent, made an application for a postponement of this matter because they indicated their attorney received the application yesterday,” said the lawyer.

“The attorney has not been given instructions on how to respond. I think in all fairness, the application is merited. The matter has been postponed to Thursday. We are going to file heads of argument and that is when the matter will be deliberated.”

The other respondents cited in the High Court application were the third respondent -Matabeleland Collective, fourth respondent – Jenni Williams (leader of the Matabeleland Collective), fifth respondent – Chairman of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (Retired Judge Sello Nare) and sixth respondent – the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).

In an earlier interview with CITE, one of the applicants Mbuso Fuzwayo said the exhumations must stop as the alleged perpetrator could not take charge of the process.

“We need exhumations but we don’t want them to be led by the perpetrator. It is unfortunate that the perpetrator has now taken charge and the lead in the process excluded the victims. It is no longer a victim issue but now an issue of the perpetrator who wants to chlorinate himself using Jenni Williams, so we feel the exercise will not produce the desired result; it will not heal,” he said.

Fuzwayo noted the engagement between the civic society aligned to the Matabeleland Collective and President Mnangagwa had become a political process.

“The proper process must be victim-centred led by the NPRC, not this thing where it is not even clear who will be doing the exhumations because you can’t expect the perpetrator to be one doing the exhumations,” said the activist

“In all these meetings, other stakeholders were not involved, as they were deliberately excluded. The court order must temporarily stop exhumations. There are a lot of issues that have not been clarified. We need to talk about the missing people, people who are living with scars, the survivors. Gukurahundi is a wide subject with a lot of issues in it.”

After their last meeting with Mnangagwa, Williams had told CITE there was a need for legislation to plan how the exhumations would be carried out.

“We feel the issue of exhumations must be addressed. There are various challenges around the development of a policy position and they also may be a need for a statutory instrument to secure the method under which the exhumations will be done,” she said.

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