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Chiefs want lead role in Gukurahundi healing drive

By Blessings Mashaya

Traditional chiefs have told President Emmerson Mnangagwa they want to take a leading role in solving the emotive Gukurahundi issue to overcome lingering resentment and achieve true reconciliation and justice.

Chief Fortune Charumbira (left) gives his acceptance speech after being elected unopposed as president of Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs while flanked by his deputy Chief Mtshane in Harare yesterday. Chiefs Chiwara and Mazungunye (inset) spurned bribery attempts by Chief Musarurwa prior to the electoral process. — (Picture by Memory Mangombe)
Chief Fortune Charumbira (left) gives his acceptance speech after being elected unopposed as president of Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs while flanked by his deputy Chief Mtshane in Harare yesterday. Chiefs Chiwara and Mazungunye (inset) spurned bribery attempts by Chief Musarurwa prior to the electoral process. — (Picture by Memory Mangombe)

National Council of Chiefs president Fortune Charumbira told Mnangagwa at a meeting of chiefs in Kadoma on Monday that the government must allow them to solve the Gukurahundi issue.

“In Rwanda chiefs played a critical role in solving conflicts in their country. Learned people and judges failed to solve the issue but chiefs managed to solve the conflict and their country is now peaceful,” he said referring to village courts, known as gacaca, established to clear a backlog of genocide cases which had overwhelmed Rwanda’s judicial system.

Between 2001 and 2012, more than two million cases were tried in 12 000 community courts, where locals were encouraged to gather under trees and beneath aluminium roofing to discuss what happened.

“Today, Chiefs’ Council has resolved that as chiefs we must play a leading role in conflict resolution. Issues such as Gukurahundi are best dealt with by chiefs as they affect our communities.”

This comes after the police last week blocked a march by survivors and victims of the Gukurahundi atrocities.

Last month, the outspoken Fibalusi Chief Vezi Maduna Mafu wrote a letter to the United Nations (UN) appealing for its intervention on the highly-contested Gukurahundi matter.

“We write requesting an independent commission of inquiry be set up to investigate atrocities which occurred in Matabeleland and Midlands in Zimbabwe, Africa, between 1981 and 1987 immediately after the country gained independence from Britain (sic),” wrote Chief Maduna in a letter dated November 13, 2018, addressed to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

“The atrocities escalated into genocide occasioned by ethnic cleansing agenda targeting the Ndebele people in the western and central parts of the country (sic)”.

Maduna said it was high time the country engages external assistance since previous internal efforts have all but yielded nothing as there is lack of political will to deal with the matter.

The Gukurahundi massacres saw up to 20 000 villagers and opponents of President Robert Mugabe killed in the mid-1980s, with the deployment meant to crush rebellion by ex-Zapu guerrillas. DailyNews