BY OBERT SIAMILANDU
Transitional justice lobby group, the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) has said exhumations and reburial of victims of Gukurahundi victims must be conducted in consultation with families of the deceased.
Launching the 2020 state of the transitional justice report on Wednesday, Isheanesu Chirisa, from Veritas said there was need to develop a national policy on exhumations and re-burials of victims of past conflicts.
“Despite our country’s long history of violence and conflict, the question of the disappeared in Zimbabwe remains unanswered,” Chirisa said.
“Key to the question of the disappeared in Zimbabwe is the issue of exhumations and reburial of the remains of victims of violence.”
NTJWG is a platform established by 46 transitional stakeholders to provide the interface between transitional justice stakeholders and the official transitional justice process in the country.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month met chiefs from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces over the Gukuruhaundi issue after traditional leaders raised concern over his earlier proposals to lead the reburials.
The chiefs said they should lead the process in consultation with the victims’ families. Over 20 000 people died when then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe unleashed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to thwart Zapu dissidents in the country’s southern region in the 1980s.
“As there is currently no legislative or policy framework guiding how reburials and exhumations should be done, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) recommended in its 2019 report noted that such a policy and or law should be put in place to deal with exhumations and reburials of victims of past conflicts as well as securing documentation for victims’ families,” Chirisa added.
The NPRC report, Chirisa said, also noted the need for the enactment of legislation against the use of hate speech as it was an impediment to transitional justice.
“In carrying out its work between 2018 and 2019, NPRC observed that the use of hate speech is one sources of violent conflict.
“The NPRC thus recommended that there be legislation prohibiting the use of such language by political and other related actors,” Chirisa said.
“The use of hate speech is a common and a very disturbing trend in Zimbabwe and it often underpins responses by State officials and politicians to divergent views. This trend undermines principles of democracy and is an abuse of fundamental right to freedom of expression which according to section 61 of the Constitution excludes advocacy of hatred or hate speech.
“Although the use of hate speech is an issue that must be addressed, this issue can be addressed through the implementation of the current legislative framework if it is applied to all without favour.
“The enactment of more laws to address the issue may result in the right to freedom of expression being eroded and the law weaponised to stifle dissenting voices.”