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Govt halts Gukurahundi hearing

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday caused the postponement of a court hearing where survivors of the Gukurahundi massacres wanted to interdict him from tampering with the survivors’ mass graves until contentious issues surrounding the matter have been resolved. BY SILAS NKALA A group of survivors led by Charles Thomas, Ibhetshu likaZulu, its secretary Mbuso Fuzwayo and Zapu, last Saturday filed an urgent High Court application in Bulawayo seeking to bar government from exhuming the remains of Gukurahundi victims after Mnangagwa pledged to fast-track the reburials and put the matter to rest. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) says over 20 000 people were killed during the State-sanctioned Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1983 and 1987. The court application was filed after Mnangagwa recently met with leaders of civic society groups under the banner of Matabeleland Collective and pledged to expedite the issuance of identity documents to Gukurahundi survivors. He also promised to fast-track the exhumation and reburial of the victims’ remains buried in shallow graves. The applicants’ lawyer Nqobani Sithole confirmed yesterday that the matter was postponed to September 10 by Justice Martin Makonese following Mnangagwa and Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe’s request for more time to respond to the issues raised in the application. In their application, the aggrieved parties cited Mnangagwa, Kazembe, Matabeleland Collective and its leader Jennifer Williams, National Peace and Reconciliation (NPRC) and its chaiperson Sello Nare as respondents. The applicants submitted that the respondents had no locus standi to initiate the exhumations of the Gukurahundi victims without the consent of the victims’ relatives, survivors and people from the affected regions. They said Mnangagwa was an interested party since the mass killings were done at a time he was State Security minister.Thomas said in 1983, he was kidnapped together with several other young men from his village, where he was tortured and left for dead. “On February 3, 1983, many young men and I were rounded up by the Fifth Brigade soldiers in Bulawayo and taken to Stops and Ross Camp, where we were subjected to extremely severe torture and beatings. The torture sessions at Stops and Ross Camp lasted five days before I escaped and fled to my home area at Nswazi, in Umzingwane, for sanctuary. A follow-up operation by the Fifth Brigade resulted in my rearrest at Nswazi village together with my brother, Sifiso Ndlovu, along with other men from many villages,” he said. Thomas said they were further tortured before they were taken to Bhalagwe in Kezi, where several villagers were killed and buried in mass graves, including his brother. Last week, Matabeleland Forum, a consortium of civic society organisations opposed to Mnangagwa’s initiatives, said government’s moves to address the matter lacked sincerity. The Matabeleland Forum said truth-telling must precede the exhumation and reburial process.

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