President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to convene a “consensus- building meeting” with Matabeleland traditional leaders soon to co-ordinate and fast-track exhumations and reburials of victims of post-independence civil disturbances that rocked Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands province.
Exhumations and reburials of Gukurahundi victims was one of the key resolutions agreed between Government and Matabeleland civic groups and traditional leaders when they met with the President in March last year.
A follow-up meeting held on February 14 established that progress on implementing last year’s resolutions — which include the issuance of civil documents to surviving children of victims of the disturbances and ceding the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to locals — was being held up by funding constraints and bureaucracy.
President Mnangagwa, who is following through on his promise to ensure that the country confronts its ugly past, has since undertaken to superintend over the implementation process.
On Friday, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe led a Government delegation that included Registrar-General Clemence Masango and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabiza to lay the ground for the commencement of issuance of civil documents to surviving spouses and the victims’ children.
Mrs Mabiza, who is head of secretariat in the engagement and dialogue with Matabeleland civic society organisations, told The Sunday Mail the delegation “shall mostly deal with logistics for providing birth certificates”.
“Most of the issues that are outstanding are to do with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Registrar-General, and that is to do with the issuance of birth and death certificates,” she said.
The team will also meet with the civic society leadership.
Ceding of the Zambezi Matabeleland Water Project, she added, was already at an advanced stage.
“We have been acting on some of the socio-economic needs such as provision of water through drilling boreholes.”
She said President Mnangagwa will “soon” preside over a consensus-building meeting to prepare for commencement of exhumations and reburials.
Government is reportedly exploring ways to facilitate legally and culturally acceptable processes.
Mrs Mabiza said: “On the other difficult issues such as exhumations and reburials, we will soon have a consensus-building meeting with chiefs, civic society groupings and other stakeholders, including the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, to plan the way forward.
“After the consensus-building exercise, we will then craft a way forward in terms of how to facilitate the exhumations.
“This will bring on board our development partners and any interested funders to bankroll the exercise.”
All the processes will reportedly be done within the confines of the law, which also entails drafting legal statutes to facilitate implementation.
However, the guidance would come out of the planned indaba.
“The consensus-building meeting shall involve His Excellency, but we do not have a date yet, but it is going to be very soon.
“You may be aware that we were expecting chiefs to attend the meeting that was held in Bulawayo, but unfortunately, due to some budgetary and other logistical challenges, the Ministry of Local Government (and Public Works) was not ready to sponsor the chiefs to be on board during that meeting.”
The law provides only for the Minister of Home Affairs to grant an order for exhumation.
Government has expanded the scope of engagements to include other civic organisations outside the ambit of the Matabeleland Collective.
The Second Republic, under President Mnangagwa, has opened up discussions on Gukurahundi, which claimed thousands of lives after violence flared up in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces soon after independence.
At this month’s meeting with civic society leaders at State House in Bulawayo, the President, however, indicated that restorative justice could only be achieved through dialogue.
“We must resist the urge to elevate any differences that arise out of discussions aimed at resolving the issues in Matabeleland to a level where they become permanent barriers that prevent meaningful dialogue among us,” he said.
“Let me assure you that, as I have demonstrated by convening this meeting today, I shall continue to monitor this dialogue very closely and hold all my officials accountable for the successful implementation of issues discussed here . . .
“I reiterate that, as Zimbabweans, we are one. Together we can overcome any challenges that confront us.”
The Head of State and Government has been engaging multiple stakeholders to promote peace and unity that is needed to spur national economic growth and development.