GOVERNMENT and the Matabeleland Collective, a group of civil society organisations, have agreed on strict timeframes for the implementation of the Gukurahundi healing and reconciliation implementation matrix, with the exhumations and reburials of victims of the massacres set to commence with immediate effect.
By Nyasha Chingono
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is anxious to bring to finality the emotive issue where 20 000 civilians were killed in the southern-western parts of the country in the 1980s.
Government also pledged to immediately provide birth certificates to dependants of Gukurahundi victims who have lived without proper identification since the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade was unleashed on Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands under the watch of former president Robert Mugabe, with Mnangagwa, who was the then state security minister, as the enforcer.
A communique seen by the Zimbabwe Independent says the Home Affairs ministry is mandated to issue death certificates to dependants of victims and allow the exhumation of victims upon application by interested parties.
Reburial of the victims will also be done as government moves to appease the affected communities.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), whose lifespan is to be extended beyond its current mandate, has already begun a mapping exercise to ascertain the affected areas and special needs peculiar to several parts of Matabeleland. However, the commission is not adequately resourced to carry out the mammoth task.
Gukurahundi, an emotive issue that government has dodged for years, will finally be a subject of discussion at various for a, according to the communique, with government also guaranteeing protection mechanisms for discussants. The state apparatus has over the years been used to squash discussions, mainly in Bulawayo, while protest artists such as the late Joe Maseko were arrested.
In a move expected to stimulate debate surrounding the Gukurahundi atrocities, the NPRC has already begun community consultations with victims of the atrocities as part of government’s plan to bring closure to the highly-emotive issue.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has also been mandated to avail special medical attention to communities with special needs with immediate effect. The Gukurahundi genocide left thousands maimed, some nursing broken limbs and permanent injuries, while Mugabe regime ignored the sensitive issue.
Matabeleland Collective and government also agreed for the expeditious implementation of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, an ambitious plan hatched over a century ago that seeks to end the perennial water shortages bedevilling Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo, by drawing water from the mighty Zambezi River.
The ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement and Finance are expected to give cabinet a monthly report on progress.
Bulawayo has faced perennial water shortages as government has continued to dither over the implementation of the project. The Chinese, who had pledged a US$1,2 billion for the project during the Government of National Unity (GNU), abandoned the project midway, citing country risk.
Government also pledged to expeditiously implement the devolution of power to local authorities, an emotive issue during the 2013 constitution-making process where Bulawayo and other “marginalised” areas called for removal of red tape in the crafting of local budgets. Activists have also argued against centralisation of decision-making in the Harare metropolitan.
In his 2019 national budget, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated $310 million to facilitate the devolution of power to provincial councils following an outcry from marginalised communities and in line with the constitution.
Under the implementation matrix, the harmonisation of laws to ease the implementation of devolution will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Local Government, Public works and National Housing and Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Harmonisation of laws should be done within the next six months.
Increased participation of women in parliament and government was also agreed during the meeting, a process that will be undertaken by the Justice ministry.
“Undertake intensive awareness campaigns for the increased inclusivity of women in parliament, cabinet and other governance structures,” the implementation matrix reads.
Government also guaranteed a NGO–state engagement platform for sustained dialogue between state and non-state actors. The process will be spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
The implementation matrix also entails investigation and reporting on the causes of alleged police inaction and perceived insubordination during the January 14-16 riots which culminated in a massive crackdown by the country’s security services.
The ministries of Home Affairs and Justice have been given three months to report back and ensure immediate implementation.
Government also resolved to institute immediate investigations into reports of corruption in rural district councils in the Matabeleland districts and elsewhere in the country.
A special anti-corruption unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing has already begun investigations, according to the communique.