ACTIVISTS in Matabeleland are strongly against the idea of traditional chiefs taking a leading role in solving the ‘sensitive’ Gukurahundi issue.
They argue that Gukurahundi is not a traditional or cultural issue and chiefs are already compromised after openly declaring their alliegance to the ruling party, Zanu PF.
The rebuttal comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the leadership of the chiefs’ council must bring closure on the Gukurahundi issue.
In early December 2018, Chief Charumbira declared chiefs were the only ones who could solve the Gukurahundi issue despite strong objections from Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu of Filabusi and Ntabazinduna Chief Nhlanhla Ndiweni who warned the matter had the potential to divide chiefs.
Activists concurred that chiefs have no mandate and capacity to deal with the genocide,which claimed an estimated 20 000 innocent lives in Matabeleland and Midlands.
Dr Samukele Hadebe, an academic, said chiefs must not use tradition as a leeway.
“Whoever says Gukurahundi is a traditional matter is lying. There’s no culture that says people should be butchered. If the chiefs insist it is about culture why did they not group themselves in the 1980s and resist that culture of killing people,” he said.
Dr Hadebe insisted chiefs would be unable to solve this matter.
“I have nothing against chiefs, as I too I come from a family that has raised chieftainships. I speak from an informed view, and I emphasise chiefs will not end this”.
He also claimed that chiefs were known to be sellouts and alleged that during the liberation struggle ZIPRA had even sentenced some to death as they had sided with the colonial regime.
“This is known fact even the ZIPRA cadres can confirm this. The chiefs had sided with Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and said the likes of Joshua Nkomo can’t lead except for themselves. Now chiefs suddenly want to help yet they do not even attend Gukurahundi commemorations although they are invited,” Dr Hadebe indicated.
Mbuso Fuzwayo, an avid advocate for Gukurahundi and Ibhetshu LikaZulu secretary general, claimed that chiefs were an arm of the government and not independent.
“Zimbabweans said they need an independent commission to handle Gukurahundi yet some of the chiefs are commissars of Zanu PF. If chiefs want to solve the issue, they can assist the independent commission as other stakeholders than to say they will lead. Chiefs do not inspire confidence,” he said.
A political analyst, Thomas Sithole, said chiefs should recuse themselves and let the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), which is a constitutional body mandated to handle conflict do its job.
“Chiefs can just participate like other citizens when engaging and interfacing with the NPRC. Chiefs are very much compromised to deal with this sensitive issue since they have been very clear that they support a certain political party and will always do so. They should just stick to their mandate that is enshrined in the constitution and stay away from interfering with some institutions’ work, in this case the NPRC must handle Gukurahundi,” he said.
ZAPU National Spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa added chiefs cannot become solely responsible for Gukurahundi atrocities for the single reason that the genocide was a political operation meant to annihilate a political opponent.
“It was never a traditional issue, the area largely under their jurisdiction. What the rest of the chiefs and the perpetrating government under Mnangagwa failed to understand pertaining to chiefs Maduna and Ndiweni is that they should cooperate with the victims and survivors in seeking closure and resolution,” he said.
Maduna and Ndiweni, as leaders in affected areas, Maphosa indicated did not intend to take over the healing process but simply led their counterparts in calling for solution to the decade’s long impasse.
“The intended taking over of the Gukurahundi process is nothing but a conspiracy to delay or even deny justice to the victims by the perpetrating government working in connivance with fake chiefs such as Fortune Charumbira. ZAPU, as the primary target of Gukurahundi and the people of Matabeleland and Midlands must never accept this nonsense. There are constitutional bodies that can deal with this and the chiefs must instead call for their capacitation and independence,” he stressed.