Matabeleland chiefs fear that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) could miss crucial evidence on the Gukurahundi massacres of the early to mid 1980s, unless it abandons its current approach which focuses on cities and towns.
This comes as more traditional leaders in the region are challenging the government to act with speed to bring closure to the highly emotive matter. It also comes as Chief Mathema of Gwanda accused the NPRC on Thursday of focusing its efforts on towns and cities in its fact-finding missions — which he said risked getting flawed evidence as many of the victims of the killings were in rural areas.
“You (NPRC) are doing most of your work in urban areas, yet most of the people who were affected were people in rural communities.
“You should engage the traditional leaders. You know when you start talking about Gukurahundi people get angry, but it’s something that happened.
“Those people who died may not rise from the dead, but my point is Baba Nare please go down to the people who were affected,” Mathema told NPRC chairperson retired judge Selo Nare at the launch of the Churches Convergence on Peace (CCOP) initiative.
“I have never heard of NPRC looking for me or any other traditional leader to talk about the issue.
“So, I am challenging you to go to the people. They are the ones who can give you relevant information and how this issue can be dealt with. “We should not be afraid to discuss this because … that’s the only way it can be addressed. Right now … people do not relate well. They may appear to agree in public, but in reality there are deep-seated tensions that need to be addressed,” Mathema added.
On his part, Nare — who described Mathema as “a man of substance” — said the NPRC had seconded Commissioner Lesley Ncube to the region to work with traditional leaders. “My commission, and I in particular, decided to second him … he will certainly be working with you. I trust that with your prayers he will succeed,” Nare said.
Two Matabeleland chiefs, Vezi Maduna and Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni, are currently at odds with the government as they push for the appointment of an independent probe into the Gukurahundi atrocities. An estimated 20 000 people are said to have been killed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces when the government deployed the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to the two regions, to fight an insurrection.
Unity Day was subsequently set up to commemorate the Unity Accord which was later signed between Zapu and Zanu on December 22, 1987, and which ended hostilities between the two parties. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who served as ousted former president Robert Mugabe’s right-hand man for nearly 54 years, last year operationalised the NPRC as part of his efforts to address unresolved national issues such as the Gukurahundi atrocities.
During his maiden appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year, Mnangagwa said the government was keen to address the atrocities. What can we do about the past? We have put up a commission (NPRC) to deal with that issue (Gukurahundi), that should not stop us from having a better future where all the communities should be united, should co-operate, should love each other, should work together.
“Let me assure you that just recently I had a meeting with chiefs from Matabeleland, discussing with them, because I feel there is that bad patch in our history and we would want to correct it.
“We would want to say whatever wrong was committed we must say, the government of the day must apologise,” Mnangagwa said.