The Sunday News
Sunday News Reporters
FIERCE Government critic and opposition politician Mr David Coltart has described the move by the Government to facilitate the issuance of birth certificates and death certificates as well as the exhumation and reburial of those who died during political disturbances in the 1980s known as Gukurahundi as a huge step forward.
In an interview on Thursday last week, Mr Coltart, who was part of a team that worked on a report of the post-independence disturbances titled: Breaking The Silence-A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980-1988 said it was important that the Government has opened up the discussion on the Gukurahundi issue.
“It’s important that the discussion is taking place after being silenced for several years. We need to have proper burials for the victims of the conflict,” he said.
“But the key issue is whether the Government’s move is going to bring about reconciliation. I remember when we worked on the report, Breaking The Silence between 1990 to 1997 where we interviewed 2 000 victims, the people were clear on what they wanted. They wanted three issues to be addressed, acknowledgement from those who were involved in the atrocities, secondly an apology and thirdly communal reparations. They raised communal reparations because it was their feeling that their areas were disadvantaged during that period compared to other areas in the country.”
Mr Coltart said through communal reparations the people called for the upgrading of infrastructure such as roads, schools, bridges, clinics and hospitals.
“The other issue that should be done to bring about reconciliation is that the exhumations should be carried out by qualified people. There should be DNA tests so that those who died are linked to their surviving relatives, after which they should be proper burials and that might go a long way in bringing closure.”
Mr Dumisani Nyongolo Nkomo, director of the Habakkuk Trust and also a member of the Matabeleland Collective said the Government’s moves was the first baby steps to achieving greater goals such as apologising for past hurts.
“I think the most important thing is that for the first time there has been an acknowledgement, there hasn’t been an apology yet but an acknowledgement that such a thing happened. It has been put in writing now. The other important thing is the decriminalisation of the Gukurahundi activities and speech because in the past people like Owen Maseko, Mbuso Fuzwayo from Ibhetshu LikaZulu were arrested for doing activities around Gukurahundi so it’s an important step as well, even though there’s no overt law that bans talking about it,” he said. Chairman of the National Peace and Reconciliation Justice Sello Nare said dialogue should start as low as family level, community level and finally get to national level.
“It is important that we ensure that everyone’s voice is heard as we dialogue and that is why I am excited about this process today. This will help to shape the national and provincial agenda in terms of the key issues that we want to constitute a national process. We will be working with communities to find out how they want the process of healing and closure to be sequenced and what their major priority areas where.”
Zimbabwe Christian Churches Alliance leader, Reverend Useni Sibanda, commended the Government’s decision saying affected people will get closure in the issue.
Last week the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) announced that it was in the process of implementing a number of modalities as part of its response to calls for compensatory development, national healing and devolution by the Matabeleland Collective. Chief among what the OPC said it would do was the exhumations and reburials of victims of Gukurahundi, issuance of identity documents and offer psycho support to survivors. President Mnangagwa last month met the Matabeleland Collective, a grouping of non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations, trusts, savings clubs and social movements from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South as part of the new dispensation’s thrust of collective engagement towards development.