No Gukurahundi outreach meetings in urban areas: Chiefs

The National Chiefs Council has announced that the Gukurahundi Community Outreach Programmes will not be held in urban areas or conducted virtually for people in the diaspora urging those interested in participating to travel to their rural areas to make submissions.

This resolution from the National Chiefs Council effectively puts an end to calls made by activists for outreach meetings to include people living in towns as well as those in the Diaspora.

The latest move has also infuriated former ZPRA fighters, who said Gukurahundi atrocities occurred in Bulawayo and that the infamous phrase “seligonjolozelwe” meaning “you have been surrounded,” was directed at urban dwellers.   

“On the issue of those people based in South Africa and urban areas who need to appear before the chiefs council in this outreach, we have resolved as the National Council that we must be careful so we don’t consider issues that are not authentic,” said Chief Fortune Charumbira, last Friday at the Bulawayo State House while delivering closing remarks at the Fourth interface between chiefs and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“The best way to make sure that we pick the right people is to go to the community where it happened.”

Chief Charumbira stated the outreach meetings will not be a one-day event, allowing people to plan their attendance accordingly.

“The outreach meetings will probably take three or six months, if you can’t find one or two days in six months to go back to your chief to present your case, it becomes problematic,” he said.

“So if we put you in a virtual meeting from Johannesburg the problem is we won’t even know you, you are bound to lie to us. But in the community, people will know you and your family. At least it can be verified. It remains problematic for those who don’t want to move.” 

Chief Charumbira said the National Chiefs Council will insist those who do not live in rural communities to make time to appear before their chief.

“Otherwise we may have several cases of false submissions, then we will be under attack for giving false statements,” he said.

Chief Charumbira also stated the outreaches were not ward rallies, so people should not expect to attend in large numbers.

“Our approach is we are not holding ward rallies, where everyone moves from their house. 

This is victim-centred, it’s a family that was affected who will make their submission to a panel of 14 chaired by a chief. That family cannot be 100, maybe 20 at least,” he said. 

“This means there will be more absence of residents so that the chiefs can take advantage. It’s not a rally where we invite everyone. It is specific to those affected as a family.”

However, activists have expressed regret at the resolution made by the National Chiefs Council.

“Unfortunately, Gukurahundi is now being confined to the villages, the perpetrator is the one on the leading front, but Gukurahundi must be inclusive, not exclusive,” said Mbuso Fuzwazo, secretary general of Ibhetshu LikaZulu.

Fuzwayo described the refusal to hold the outreach meetings in urban areas as exclusive.

“So they are continuing with a programme that excludes other victims. Gukurahundi pushed people to be in urban areas, pushed others to seek refugee outside Zimbabwe. So they mean a person must get into an expense to go and share their story. Why don’t they reach out to the victim than revictimising people?” he questioned.

Bulawayo Archbishop Alex Thomas confirmed this exclusion was an issue for the clergy, but they were informed there was a possibility of people going to their rural homes to make their submissions.

“That issue of leaving people out, those residing in urban areas or outside the country who suffered during that time is a matter of serious concern. What we understood and what we were told was people can go back to their rural areas to give witness or evidence to their particular chief,” he said.

“What was made clear was there will not be any hearing in urban areas. All the hearings would be done by the chiefs and their council but people are free, those who were affected, can go from urban areas to the chiefs and speak to them. Those who have rural homes and people know that you are from such an area, the community will be a witness.”

ZPRA Veterans Association Spokesperson Buster Magwizi claimed the Gukurahundi resolution would be a “hoax” if other victims not from rural areas were excluded.

“We don’t belong to those rural areas, we are here some of us and have stories to tell. Are we going to be barred? This is not peacebuilding, not transforming any conflict then it’s a hoax,” he said, adding the former freedom fighters had visited President of The National Chiefs Council, Chief Lucas Mtshane Khimalo at his homestead on possible solutions.

“We visited Chief Mtshane last Wednesday and we said it must be publicised that people are told to go to their rural homes. As ZPRA veterans, we are suggesting that those who can’t go to their rural areas must come via the association then we compile a list that we will take to Chief Mtshane to help us. Either he will allocate an interlocutor or ask him to come and talk to us.” 

A former ZPRA fighter Cetshwayo Sithole added “let’s not forget  Gukurahundi also operated here in Bulawayo. So many times we were told ‘seligonjolozelwe.’”

“I demobilised after the struggle and didn’t go to the army and I would receive my money at the Post Office, the same day with everyone. If the soldiers wanted you, they would come there and take you, They knew our addresses and Ken Flower arrested so many ZPRA cadres.”

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One Comment

  1. Do not expect closure via this route, as Charumbira and his handlers are simply parroting it. The perpetrators committed genocide and they are still present and choreographing the tune to be sung….

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