Gukurahundi manual spells out who can attend community hearings

The manual on community consultative meetings on the Gukurahundi genocide sets parameters on who can attend hearings to be presided over by traditional chiefs.

Chiefs have been advised to engage people who live under that chief’s jurisdiction, not outsiders living outside the community.

Engaging people who live outside a certain community, according to the manual which was presented to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the Bulawayo State House on Monday, may result in them giving false submissions.

Known individuals who have relocated to resettlement or urban areas, on the other hand, may be granted a special exception.

“Chiefs are encouraged to engage people who reside in his or her jurisdiction only. It is easier to identify members living in the same community. Information provided by unknown individuals (strangers) living outside the community can be false or fabricated. However special exceptions may be accorded to known persons who had moved to resettlement areas,” read Section 19 on page 12.

“It is recommended that the chiefs should refuse such information or consider it with caution. Alternatively, the chef can request to examine the National Identification Document of the person   concerned and identify where that person comes from and refer them to their respective areas.”

The manual also addressed submissions from people who are living in urban areas, saying they can attend the engagement meetings.

“People who migrated to urban areas can participate in their rural areas. Furthermore, those residing in urban areas can receive information on proposed meeting dates (notice of proceedings) from their relatives in order for them to attend the meetings,” stated Section 20.

“An option is open to the chiefs subject to concurrence with the National Council of Chiefs to conduct outreach programmes in urban areas where they would be allowed to give submissions (Like what was done for Wenela.)

Chiefs were also advised to take steps to make sure that victims who had crucial information but failed to attend the engagement meetings were visited to emphasize the significance of their involvement in the process.

“In the event that a known victim by the community fails to appear at the engagement meeting, it is recommended that the Chief may instruct his Messenger accompanied by a religious leader, relative or counsellor to visit the person concerned in order to explain the importance of their participation in the programme,” read Section 18

“The chief in this regard is encouraged to continue engaging the person concerned without being authoritative as the process is victim centred.”

The composition of the panel should consist, but will not be limited to the following members: the chief as chairperson of the panel, other traditional leaders such as headman and village head, members of the secretariat, chief’s aides (messengers), religious leaders, a member of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA), women, counsellors, elders in the chief’s court and chosen community elders, as stated in Section eight.

Sitting arrangements for meetings, according to Section 10 of the manual, may vary depending on culture specific requirements of the community, such as “circular or cow horn formation to encourage equality or the panel could also utilise the normal setup used during ward meetings.”

“Alternatively, the whole panel should sit in front with the Chief, secretary and headman at the centre.”

As for dress code, the chief’s panel shall dress in a culture-specific attire depending on the prevailing culture.

“Alternatively, the panel must be formally dressed. (Important) It is prohibited to wear political regalia or clothing with political connotations,” read Section 11.

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