Gukurahundi was not genocide – Charumbira

By Tapiwa Svondo

Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs deputy president, Chief Fortune Charumbira says Gukurahundi massacres in which an estimated 20 000 civilians are believed to have died in the hands of the country’s security forces soon after independence should not be classified as genocide.

He was speaking at a Gukurahundi media sensitisation workshop convened for editors and senior media staff in Bulawayo Thursday.

The workshop comes ahead of Gukurahundi hearings set to be rolled out soon by government in affected communities of Matabeleland provinces and will be spearheaded by traditional leaders under strict parameters set by the state.

During the media Indaba, Charumbira implored journalists not to inflame tensions as government seeks ways to find a conclusion to the emotive subject.

“I once said it before that you are asking me difficult questions; certainly this process is not a genocide, the one which we are doing,” Charimbira said.

“This is not about genocide and let that conclusion be made at the end of the programme.

“But what we know even the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo, he also disputed that this is genocide but acknowledge that yes, dissidents, soldiers and all that clashed in the communities and in the process, innocent people were also victims.

“But indeed, it is not genocide and it may not be classified as such.”

Gukurahundi was the name given to a military operation waged by the Zimbabwe National Army’s Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1982 and 1987.

Activists claim it was a cleansing exercise targeting the minority Ndebele tribe domiciled in the western parts of the country and once loyal to Nkomo, a onetime fierce rival to then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, later to become President.

Until President Emmerson Mnangagwa broached the subject, it was almost taboo under the Zanu PF led authority to raise the subject in public.

The matter remains unresolved to this day and continues to fuel some tribal tensions in some parts of the country.

Charumbira also defended government’s decision to exclude the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, by far the most vocal of the anti-Gukurahundi forces at the time.

“We are doing this the traditional way. We will see if we need their records,” he said.

He said only the Council of Chiefs and the Office of the President were conducting the processes.

Speaking at the same event, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services secretary Nick Mangwana appealed for responsible media coverage around the emotive subject.

“The Gukurahundi programme will take a year and the Council of Chiefs will spearhead the programme going into relevant communities.

“We call for responsible media coverage of this sensitive subject and appeal to the media practitioners to put national interests ahead of newsroom priorities,” he said, adding, “We are at a stage of reconciliation and engagement.”

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