Closure, healing set as goals for addressing Gukurahundi

Peace Journalism Centre

Authorities in Zimbabwe say they seek to find closure and national healing as they embark on efforts to address post-Independence conflict that saw deaths of thousand of people.

The Government-initiated Gukurahundi operation, commonly referred to as Gukurahundi was aimed at neutralizing “dissidents” in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1982 and 1987, but saw civilians being killed at the hands of a paramilitary outfit known as Fifth Brigade.

Estimates of civilian deaths range between 1500 and 20 000, during the “dark period” described by some as pogroms, massacres and genocide against the minority Ndebele ethnic group.

However, since 2019, President Mnangagwa – State security minister at the time of Gukurahundi – has initiated a process of resolving the effects of Government actions understood to be extrajudicial killings.

This year, hearings into what transpired are set to take place, with traditional leaders from the southern provinces leading the process.

President Mnangagwa said Thursday that resolving the divisive issue, that has led to distrust and discohesion among major ethnic groups, will seek to achieve closure and national healing.

Other mechanisms such as assisting victims and families to access social services like national registration, have been considered with bigger goals of social justice and possible reparations being put on the table.

“Presently, the Second Republic is driving the efforts to find closure and healing for the scars from the disturbances that characterised the early years of our independence,” President Mnangagwa said during an address at the burial of a national hero on Thursday.

“Through various mechanisms, including initiatives led by our traditional leaders and communities, we are addressing the Gukurahundi matter,” President Mnangagwa said.

“Emboldened by the fact that we are one people strengthened by our diversity and the spirit of love, inclusivity and tolerance, we continue to march towards sustainable, social and economic stability and prosperity.

“Further guided by our mantra; ‘leaving no one and no place behind’, my Administration is ensuring that all provinces and districts, experience shared national development and prosperity,” said the Head of State and Government.

The ruling Zanu-PF, which comprises of former liberation paryies, including PF Zapu which were locked in hostilities before the 1987 Unity Accord, has thrown its weight behind the process.

Critics and civil society have demanded accountability and long-standing social justice measures.

The hearings set to begin this quarter are seen as being fashioned around South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Zimbabwe undertook an inquiry into the period, known as the Chihambakwe Commision led by retired judge Simplisius Chihambakwe, bu the findings of his report were not publicised.

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