PRESIDENT Mnangagwa is today expected to meet chiefs from the Matabeleland region and the Midlands Province to finalise the process that will ultimately mark the beginning of the Gukurahundi hearings as the Second Republic takes a bold step towards finding a lasting solution and fostering national unity for the healing of the victims.
The meeting will be held at State House in Bulawayo.
In October 2022, the President launched a manual on the Gukurahundi community engagement processes by chiefs including a report on their consultative meetings.
Traditional leaders crafted and adopted the Gukurahundi manual to guide the holding of victim-friendly public hearings to ensure national healing as the country confronts its unfortunate past brought about by the 1980s conflict.
The manual, which is a product of inclusive engagements between chiefs and various stakeholders, is a culmination of traditional leaders’ meetings with President Mnangagwa, which started in March 2019.
Chiefs are expected to lead the public hearings in communities on Gukurahundi, which remains a thorny subject in some parts of Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
Under the Second Republic, President Mnangagwa continues to walk the talk in terms of facilitating processes aimed at bringing closure to post-independence conflicts towards entrenching unity in the country.
President Mnangagwa has on various platforms emphasised the importance of unity in the country, which he believes sets the stage for collective prosperity.
Fostering unity in the country through addressing the emotive Gukurahundi issue is also central to the country moving forward in one direction.
The country experienced the Gukurahundi conflict in the early 1980s with the Matabeleland region and parts of Midlands being the most affected.
While the 1987, Unity Accord provided a political solution to the conflict, its social implications were left unattended.
However, when President Mnangagwa assumed power, he said the country needed to confront its past no matter how dark while stating that resolving Gukurahundi was his mission.
The President has held several meetings initially with a collection of civil society organisations under Matabeleland Collective to address problems in the region with one of the issues raised then being the Gukurahundi issue.
Thereafter, the President engaged traditional leaders from the Matabeleland region and parts of Midlands where it was resolved that chiefs should take a leading role in addressing Gukurahundi.
Since then chiefs have conducted extensive training in preparation for the public hearings which are expected to start this year.
Chiefs have expressed readiness to conduct the public hearings.
It is not just the chiefs that have undergone training on how to conduct Gukurahundi, but their support staff which includes rapporteurs.
Government has also equipped traditional leaders with laptops, cellphones and recorders which they will use to collect data during the public hearings.
Chiefs have said the Government has assured them that they are adequately resourced to conduct the public hearings which are expected to take at least three months.
The Office of the President and Cabinet is financing the programme.
In an interview yesterday, the National Chiefs Council president, Chief Mtshane Khumalo, said they will brief President Mnangagwa on their state of preparedness to begin the hearings.
“We are going to have a meeting with the President to brief him on the journey we have travelled so far in our mandate to address the Gukurahundi issue. We are now preparing to start the Gukurahundi community engagements,” he said.
“It is important to brief the President on the steps that we have undertaken so far.”
Chief Mtshane Khumalo said today’s meeting is expected to come up with a roadmap including the launch of the Gukurahundi hearings programme.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is not the launch of the public hearings, but we will be briefing the President on our preparedness. We will be showing him what we have done since our last meeting with him, and from there we can then decide when the launch will be held,” he said.
“Once the launch is done, each chief will then come up with their own programmes in terms of when they intend to conduct the hearings within their communities.”
Chief Mtshane Khumalo said all the 72 chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces are expected to be part of today’s meeting.
Reflecting on their preparations, Chief Mtshane Khumalo said they have covered enough ground.
“It has been a long journey and we never thought that by now we would not have started the hearings considering the time when this process started. We thought that within a short space of time, we would have completed the exercise,” he said.
“However, along the way, we discovered that there were so many things that needed to be attended to considering the magnitude and the issues that we would be dealing with. Since we started there has never been a time when we were doing nothing.”
Chief Mtshane Khumalo said they have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.
“I’m happy to say we are now ready for the next step. We would like to commend President Mnangagwa for walking the talk in terms of ensuring that no community is left behind as far as development is concerned,” he said.
Chief Mtshane Khumalo said Gukurahundi is one of the issues that has been blamed for the under-development of the region.
“President Mnangagwa is keen on ensuring equitable development countrywide. This is in line with his philosophy that no one and no place should be left behind,” he said.
“People in our region were always lamenting that they are lagging in almost everything. Since President Mnangagwa came to power, he has taken proactive measures to address those issues, which shows that he walks to the talk when it comes to issues affecting all citizens.”