Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is finalising a strategy on dealing with the Gukurahundi issue that is expected to be completed next month and will, among issues, address the processes around public hearings, exhumations and reburial of victims.
This was said by NPRC Commissioner Patience Chiradza in an interview with The Herald.
She said the Commission had identified three areas that needed to be dealt with from past experiences, although the Gukurahundi era would be prioritised.
“We have a programme that our healing and reconciliation committee is working around in dealing with issues from the past,” she said.
“When we did our consultations, three epochs became clear— the pre-independence era which culminated in the liberation struggle, then the Gukurahundi era, which is about between 1983 and 1985, and then the electoral violence that started around 2000.
“So, those are going to be the three focus areas and I think we are clear as a commission that Gukurahundi has its priorities given the dynamics that are there. Given the issues that have been raised in Matabeleland North and South and Bulawayo, Gukurahundi becomes a central theme.”
Commissioner Chiradza said the commission had been conducting consultations on the issue before the actual hearings begin.
“So, as a commission we have been doing a lot of work around that issue because before you get into that space you need to make sure that you have a proper strategy of how you are going to do the hearings,” she said.
“We have regulations that guide us. What are we going to do in public (and) what are we going to do in camera? Secondly, we are putting in mechanisms for witness protection because the NPRC Act obliges us to make sure that witness are protected.”
Commissioner Chiradza said they also wanted to ensure that there were measures to provide social-psycho support to people that may appear before the committee during the hearings.
“Thirdly, victim support, because if people come for the hearings they may have emotional breakdowns and need social-psycho support,” she said. “Do we have those mechanisms? So, what we are doing at the moment is working with partners so that when we kick-start the hearings we will have those mechanisms in place.
“So, the strategy we are finalising in dealing with the past is a strategy that will work for all the three epochs although we are set to give a special programme around Gukurahundi because we have issues traditional leaders are raising currently in their engagements with Government and what the Matabeleland Collective have raised in their engagements with the President.
“We are taking into account all those, in addition to our own special consultations.”
On the issue of exhumations and reburials, Commissioner Chiradza said the strategy will also explain how the processes would be done taking into account the laws of the land.
“We will have our programme . . . the strategy, it will explain how our exhumations are going to be done because we have to comply with the laws,” she said. “We have to engage with the police. We have forensic experts not only in civil society, but also within the police, so we are doing all those engagements.
“That’s why I said once that programme is finalised we will share it with the people so that people will know if you want reburials to be done with the commission, how do you go about it.
“We will have our own programme because inasmuch as we are doing our consultations . . . how do you want the reburials to be done, how do you want the exhumations to be done? There are issues of evidence that can be around that (so) we are consulting so that when we launch our programme people are clear of what the strategy is.
“So, I think by mid-August that programme should have been finalised.”
President Mnangagwa has decriminalised and encouraged discussions of issues around Gukurahundi and has met traditional leaders and civil society organisations under the banner of the Matabeleland Collective to hear the concerns.