Deputy News Editor
GOVERNMENT will soon convene a meeting with traditional leaders from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces to finalise plans to begin the exhumation and reburial of victims of the post-independence disturbances in the provinces.
President Mnangagwa met the Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs (ZCC) last year and resolved to allow traditional leaders to lead the process after conducting public consultations in the affected communities.
The chiefs have over the last few months embarked on extensive consultations and are now expected to give feedback at a scheduled high-level meeting expected to take place next week.
This comes as authorities are finalising crafting a legal instrument to allow for lawful exhumations and reburials.
The President has committed to facilitate justice and take measures to promote healing in communities affected by the civil disturbances — commonly referred to as Gukurahundi — that affected the provinces.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza told The Sunday Mail that the Covid-19-induced lockdown earlier this year had delayed the consultative process.
She said Government was finalising preparations for the launch of a programme to issue civic documents in communities affected by Gukurahundi.
“Last time we met it was resolved that the chiefs would take charge of the exhumation and reburial processes,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
“But then we were affected by Covid-19, which brought us back a bit after the country went into a fresh lockdown.
“However, the chiefs have been a doing a lot of work on the ground, including consultations within their communities as was resolved during the last meeting.
“We were supposed to have a big launch of the issuing of birth certificates and other activities but that was the time we went into another lockdown.
“We are now working to resuscitate the process.
“We were supposed to convene a meeting this weekend but one of the key stakeholders who is leading the process, Chief Fortune Charumbira, is unavailable as he is attending an important meeting at the Pan-Africa Parliament.”
The crucial meeting, she said, will now be convened in the next fortnight.
“We are hoping that in a fortnight we will be able to reconvene for what will essentially be a feedback meeting where the chiefs will report back on what they have consulted on the ground.
“The chiefs are consulting on, among other things, the exhumations and reburials.
“We are happy now that we have in place the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission which was sworn in recently and now they can work hand-in-hand with other stakeholders.”
She said drafting of the legal instrument which will be used to steer the process was close to completion.
“I understand that the office of the Registrar-General was working on a Statutory Instrument. What we want is to put place is a legal framework to allow for the process to proceed above board.
“Last time we had a meeting, they had a draft SI but I am not sure whether they have brought it to the Attorney-General’s Office for clearance as yet.”
In 2019, Government met with the Matabeleland Collective, a grouping of local civic organisations, to kick-start the process of finding solutions to ensure healing among victims of Gukurahundi, as well as developmental aspirations of the provinces.
Authorities are now working to fast-track the implementation of the resolutions, including ceding ownership of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to locals and issuing of civic documents to surviving children of victims of the disturbances.