WORK by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to compile information on what really happened during the Gukurahundi era will begin next month.
Commissioner Leslie Ncube told the Daily News on Tuesday that the NPRC will from mid next month start to gather as much information as possible as part of the building blocks towards national healing.
He encouraged the affected communities to engage truthfully and to co-operate fully with the commission.
“…we want to meet everyone and tell each other the truth; that’s how we are going to deal with this matter — as a united front,” he said.
An estimated 20 000 defenceless civilians died during the Gukurahundi era when then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained army unit to crack on alleged dissent to his rule in Midlands and Matabeleland.
In 2011, Genocide Watch, along with the International Association of Genocide Scholars, classified Gukurahundi as genocide.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe’s right-hand man for nearly 54 years, last year operationalised the NPRC as part of efforts to address unresolved national issues, including the Gukurahundi atrocities. Mnangagwa has distanced himself from the 1980s disturbances, mandating the NPRC and traditional leaders to tackle the issue.
While the commission was well received in many quarters, it was not the same in Matabeleland region where many human rights activists refused to recognise it on the basis of its composition.
The activists felt that the commission would be biased in its operations since it only has one Ndebele speaking member in its ranks. Irked by this lopsided composition, the activists disrupted the NPRC’s inaugural national consultation meetings in Matabeleland last year.
Ncube said the commission would have to trace all mass graves in the affected communities to gather evidence of the post-independence killings.
He said the issue of exhumation will not be hurried as there are processes to be followed.
“People in communities know the mass graves that are in their areas….We will be listening to you to lead the process at that local level.
“Come to the meetings with a plan of what you want to happen because we will be using participatory methods; we don’t want to plan for people. Our job is not in the office – it’s on the ground because this is where the killings allegedly happened,” Ncube explained.
Remains of the Gukurahundi victims continue to be uncovered in some parts of Matabeleland, particularly in Lupane and Maphisa, which bore the brunt of the mass killings.
However, there have not been any government-sanctioned exhumations, forensics or reburials to date.