THE National Council of Chiefs has started consulting key stakeholders as part of efforts to resolve the emotive issue of Gukurahundi as directed by President Mnangagwa.
The consultations will be followed by a comprehensive strategic plan incorporating inputs from stakeholders, which will guide Government in terms of implementing some of the resolutions to fully address the subject.
In October, President Mnangagwa met the National Council of Chiefs at State House in Bulawayo on the issue of Gukurahundi including a number of developmental issues the traditional leaders wanted addressed.
The meeting was a follow-up to previous ones held between chiefs and President Mnangagwa, the last one being a consultative engagement at the same venue between the Head of State and chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South during the same month.
In the last meeting, it was resolved that traditional leaders will take over the reburials of victims of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland and Midlands while the Government will be involved in funding the process as part of initiatives meant to address the issue and promote national healing.
Speaking to journalists soon after a closed-door meeting with chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces in Bulawayo yesterday, National Council of Chiefs President, Chief Fortune Charumbira said they agreed as chiefs that it was best to engage key shareholders with genuine interest in addressing the issue.
“As directed by His Excellency, the President, Cde E D Mnangagwa that there is a need to fully address the issue of Gukurahundi, we met today with chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South who are part of the National Council of Chiefs and the Office of the President and Cabinet including the Matabeleland Collective to fine-tune the process,” he said.
“The institution of chiefs will lead the process and we want to be thorough and ensure that there is transparency in this whole process and we are not rushing in as much as we need timelines. We need to first invite people with ideas to support the process as a first step, and once we are done with consultations, we will then develop a strategic plan based on the inputs from various stakeholders and the best way to undertake this process.”
Chief Charumbira, however, could not give specific dates on how long the consultation process would take.
“We will convene meetings with stakeholders so that they can make an input into this process. It is not exclusively a process for traditional leaders since we have so many people who can assist us in terms of ideas, some of which would be considered in implementation of the process,” he said.
Chief Charumbira said there were destroyers of peace who have misrepresented the process, using social media to peddle lies.
“They are deliberately misrepresenting what came out from the meeting between the President and the Chiefs’ Council. Some of it sounding very tribal and destructive. It should be noted that this is a process for the people of this country to ensure unity,” he said.
Chief Charumbira said the programme is community-led with the victims in the villages expected to speak out and give ideas on how their emotions should be appeased.
“There has been talk of exhumations and we are not aware of any of those. However, as chiefs we were simply directed to go to the people and let them speak out. If ever there will be any exhumations, it is the families who will request with good reasons,” he said.
“What I am aware of is that most families in their own cultures are not interested in these exhumations, but if they believe that exhumations are a way for resolving their issues, then that will be looked into in terms of the laws governing exhumations including the cultural processes.”
Chief Charumbira said no traditional leader will move from one area, district or province to another to direct or dictate how the issue of Gukurahundi should be resolved. He said each chief with people in his or her own community will find a way to resolve the issues.
Chief Charumbira said the Gukurahundi process had to be institutionalised for sustainability.
“The provincial chiefs’ assembly should lead this process not individual chiefs or some groupings of people who are not even part of the cultural institution of this country to take a lead in this process. The provincial chiefs’ assembly will then report to the national structure, which is the National Council of Chiefs,” he said.
“We welcome all those people that feel they have ideas that strengthen this process so that it achieves better results.
However, culturally, no person who does not belong to the affected family or clan, is allowed to direct or lead cultural processes or even exhumation processes. This issue of Gukurahundi is led by traditional leaders and the structures start from village head to chiefs, but these will do so under an institution,” he said.
Chief Charumbira said the demands by affected families should be within the realm of reasonableness culturally for them to be implemented.
Senator Chief Matupula, who is representing chiefs in Matabeleland North, said they have noted with concern that there were some people who were using Gukurahundi to gain political mileage.
“We have people discussing these issues in hotels and they are not being sincere because Gukurahundi is a very pertinent and sensitive issue which should be handled with care not for political or monetary gain. It should be a sincere process leading to national healing among our people,” he said.
Chief Matupula said it was imperative to have the issue resolved in villages with traditional leaders being the only people who are supposed to speak to villagers about their issues.
“We believe first of all we need to identify the relevant stakeholders, those who can come and assist chiefs, those interested in the issue. Many people get interested in this issue for various reasons,” he said.
“If people are genuinely interested in this issue for the sake of national healing then it becomes easy for us to identify the role they can play.
Chief Matupula said in Matabeleland North, they were working with the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministries of Local Government, Justice, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), State Security organs, war veterans, the civil society, traditionalists, religious and cultural leaders
“For now, there are no exhumations and this is all going to come from the people. When we gather those issues, they will then be consolidated and put together into a document from the outreach programme and presented to the relevant authorities. The document will be analysed and responses given to the people,” said Chief Matupula.
Representing chiefs from Matabeleland South, Chief Nyangazonke said there is a need to collectively address the issue by including historians, traditional healers and civil organisations.
“We also looked at the set-up of our province and there are a lot of shrines and people have different beliefs. We are also giving greenlight to those that would want to conduct rituals in those shrines to do so. We have to do consultations with elders who have knowledge on issues of that magnitude,” he said.