Chiefs will begin holding community consultative meetings on Gukurahundi early next year, though they, too, have more questions than answers about how the process will unfold, according to Chief Mtshane Khumalo, Deputy President of the National Chief’s Council.
The chiefs, who are considered cultural custodians, were assigned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to lead the community consultative and outreach meetings, which were formally launched in October as an attempt to resolve the emotive Gukurahundi genocide issue.
Chief Mtshane confirmed the community outreach meetings will begin next year while speaking at a civic society symposium organized by the Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PPRIZ) and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) on Tuesday.
Chief Mtshane, on the other hand, admitted, “I have few questions here, but there are more questions than answers, I must admit.”
“Unfortunately, or fortunately these questions were raised yesterday (by other participants at the symposium.) The first question I’m posing to you is does the aggressor accept the responsibility of the death, I think you raised that it would be a mammoth task to convince the aggressor to accept the responsibility. Will the victims achieve a sense of emotional closure?”
“Most likely we are going to have the outreach programmes early next year but we don’t know where we shall send those proceedings from there. But we believe they are appointed by the president or given this responsibility by the president, so whatever comes out of that we shall send to his office.”
He acknowledged that people wanted to know how Gukurahundi would be resolved definitively, but there were still more questions.
“Will the aggressor, he or she, I’m not sure if it’s a he or she, be able to pay reparations? I have no answer to that and I don’t think you have the answer to that, as we stand now, I think if you have the answer to that you should have told us. Who will identify the victims? That’s another question we have no answer to,” said the deputy chiefs’ president
“Do the victims know their constitutional rights? We know Zimbabwe adopted the constitution in 2013, do those people who were affected by the Gukurahundi issue really know their rights? Do they know their expectations of what they are expected to do after having been victimised, if they were victimised. I think they were victimised. Do they know what is expected of them.”
The chief said it was important that people knew what the constitution entailed so they are well informed about civic processes.
“There is a section of the constitution that requires us to go round and conscientize communities about the new constitution but how many people have gone out to do that. I’m not sure if there are any, if they are good luck to them,” he said.
Chief Mtshane also acknowledged there were gaps that people wanted traditional leaders to fill, and he promised to bring these concerns to his colleagues’ attention when they meet in Harare.
“But there’s one step we have achieved as traditional leaders and that is we have involved all the members of the chiefs council in this Gukurahundi issue. We have 36 members in the chief’s council and they have all been involved,” he said.
“You may be aware of a paper that we came up with sometime and that paper came out as a result of the chief’s council meeting so we have really gone one step further on this exercise.”
Despite the various approaches to Gukurahundi, Chief Mtshane believes the victims are eager to speak up.
“I think it is important if we get them talking about it. It is not us as traditional leaders or anybody who will go out on behalf of the traditional leaders or on behalf of anybody to decide what the communities are going to say. I believe the people who are affected are the people who will tell us what it is they want the perpetrator to do for them,” he said.
“Either they will choose development for the communities or they will need individual compensation, we don’t know. We can only know after they have given us their views.”
The civic society symposium was held under the theme, ‘Honouring the Dead, Healing the living and Reconciling for the future,’ of which Chief Mtshane said there were more complex issues in honouring the dead than honouring the living.
“Some people say they are on an equal basis but I think there are more problems in honouring the dead because you don’t know what your dreams are. A society’s well-being depends on making sure members feel they have a stake and not feel excluded in mainstream society,” said the chief.