UN doubts Zim peace commission’s capacity to resolve Gukurahundi

The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has poked holes into the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), questioning its ability to resolve the long-standing and highly emotive issue of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres.

The NPRC was appointed to deal with human rights concerns, including the emotive Gukurahundi killings perpetrated by Fifth Brigade soldiers on the orders of then Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, while current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was State Security minister at the time.

Gukurahundi reared its ugly head between 1982 -1987, resulting in the death of an estimated 20 000 people in Midlands, Bulawayo and Matebeleland provinces, who were perceived dissidents.

Since the massacres, no one has been held accountable with late Mugabe describing it as a “moment of madness.”

President Mnangagwa, desperate to lure the people of Matebeleland, resuscitated debate on the emotional and highly divisive matter, which was previously discussed in hushed tones during Mugabe’s rule.

In a statement released by UNHRC following Minister of Justice, Ziyambi Ziyambi’s appearance before it in Switzerland said there was a lack of accountability and political will to fully resolve Gukurahundi.

“Ms Gay McDougall was concerned by reports that the violent events that resulted in the killing of approximately 20 000 largely Ndebele-speaking persons in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, killed by government forces in the early 1980s, remained a source of ethnic tension, with no accountability for the deaths or justice for survivors,” read the statement.

Ziyambi rebuffed the UN Commission saying the establishment of NPRC was not only to resolve the historical matter, but insisted there were other mechanisms to address it.

“The delegation said that the Peace and Reconciliation Commission was formed to ensure that national cohesion and harmony was brought into society, and to solve issues of conflict,” said Ziyambi.

“It was not constituted to deal with the Ndebele issue. Each area had customs which they used to solve these issues. As a community, the traditional leaders aimed to appease the spirts of the deceased and ensure that their families were at peace.”

Pressure groups have been mounting criticism on government to bring finality to the emotive issue by bringing those fingered to account.

Peace and conflict resolution expert Lazarus Sauti said Gukurahundi was glossed over as perpetrators were unashamedly holding positions of authority and power.

“In terms of transitional justice and reconciliation, the country is yet to make progress in addressing Gukurahundi atrocities. People are not freely speaking about the issue because some of the perpetrators are holding powerful positions in the country’s body politic,” Sauti said.

“Plaques are being tainted and destroyed. People are not yet healed. This has greatly affected peace efforts in the country. The NPRC is compromised and a proper Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed if the issue is to be resolved.

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