Launch public hearings in Gwanda — chiefs

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Launch public hearings in Gwanda — chiefs 
Chiefs from Matabeleland follow proceedings during an interface with the President at State House in Bulawayo yesterday. — Picture: Eliah Saushoma

Nqobile Tshili Bulawayo Bureau

Traditional leaders have asked President Mnangagwa to launch the Gukurahundi community hearings programme in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province, while expressing their eagerness to promote reconciliation and national unity through the initiative.

The request was made during the fourth meeting between President Mnangagwa and 72 chiefs from Matabeleland North and South provinces.

The meeting, which was part of initiatives to come up with home-grown solutions to the issue, took place at the State House in Bulawayo and was attended by several Cabinet Ministers, Provincial Ministers from the Matabeleland region, senior civil servants including Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Martin Rushwaya, religious leaders and civil society organisations.

The president of the National Council of Chiefs, Chief Mtshane Khumalo, said chiefs are following the President’s directive to promote a cohesive society in line with the national development agenda.

Chief Mtshane said that the traditional leaders have established a 12-member Gukurahundi hearings steering committee, whose members are part of the National Chiefs Council, to guide the implementation of the community hearing processes.

He said that the committee is gender-sensitive, as it includes Chief Ndube from Insiza, Matabeleland South, in the largely male-dominated field of traditional leadership.

“Noting with gratitude the support and leadership you have rendered us, your committee humbly requests the following as a way forward in the execution of the assignment given to us: Subject to your guidance, your Excellency, the Steering committee has proposed the launch of the Gukurahundi Outreach Programme by His Excellency, in Gwanda District,” said Chief Mtshane.

“With your approval, Your Excellency, the Steering Committee requests the establishment of a Command/Coordinating Centre in Bulawayo to streamline coordination and implementation efforts.

He said they will also endeavour to translate programme materials into all local languages, ensuring broader accessibility and inclusivity.

Chief Mtshane said that the committee will continue to engage the President as they will soon initiate the sensitive community hearings.

“Your committee remains dedicated to the successful execution of the assignment given to it.

“ The proposed strategies aim to fortify the impact of the programme. Your Excellency’s continued support and guidance will help us walk this sensitive path with boldness and resolve,” said Chief Mtshane.

He briefed the President on some of the programmes that were implemented in the past year, including setting up of the 14-member panel that will be part of the public hearings.

Chief Mtshane said the panel should represent a cross-section of society, including elders, religious and cultural leaders, youth, women, counsellors and rapporteurs.

“The primary role of these panels is to contribute to the decision-making process by offering diverse perspectives and expertise. Elders bring wisdom and experience, religious and cultural leaders represent spiritual and cultural aspects, youth contribute fresh ideas, women ensure gender inclusivity, counsellors provide guidance and psycho-social support and rapporteurs document the process,” said Chief Mtshane.

He said being inclusive also fosters a well-rounded and representative decision-making environment within the community.

Chief Mtshane said that the committee has conducted extensive training on the principles of documentation, conducting interviews, gender sensitivity and counselling, among other key subject areas.

He said that the community hearings will emphasise the victim-centred approach and confidentiality.

“Special attention was given to maintaining confidentiality, providing psychosocial support, ensuring witness protection, obtaining informed consent, and minimising re-victimisation opportunities in line with the victim-centred approach that we intend to utilise during the community engagement phase of the process,” he said.

The steering committee has also received training in media management and data archiving, according to Chief Mtshane. He said as a result, the committee developed programme document templates for the outreach and training materials utilised throughout the various capacity-building workshops.

“Chiefs, rapporteurs, and panel members underwent extensive training encompassing conflict resolution, historical context, and advanced communication techniques in order to enhance their understanding of the community engagement process. A total of 72 chiefs comprising 41 chiefs from Matabeleland North and 31 Matabeleland South and 144 rapporteurs from 14 districts in both provinces were trained in the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) devices,” he said.

He commended President Mnangagwa for availing gadgets, such as laptops, recorders, printers, and stationery to be used during the outreach programme for data capturing.

National Council of Chiefs deputy president Chief Fortune Charumbira said it was encouraging that the process that they have undertaken has buy-in from across sections of the society.

He said they have held several meetings with religious leaders who have come in support of their programme.

Bulawayo Provincial and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube while delivering opening remarks, said the country is now at a crossroads in its efforts to resolve the Gukurahundi issue and is charting a new path for Matabeleland region.

“We are at a crossroads of history as we want to progress and reconcile with a chapter that has left an in-depth indelible mark on the hearts of our people. The interface with our esteemed President and chiefs represents a commitment to understanding and fostering unity within Matabeleland communities,” said Minister Ncube.