THE National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of acting unconstitutionally and leaving out the independent body in the contentious exhumation and reburial exercise of victims of Gukurahundi massacres.
According to Section 251 of the country’s Constitution, NPRC has the sole mandate to spearhead all national reconciliatory programmes.
However, two months ago, Mnangagwa met Matabeleland-based traditional leaders at State House in Bulawayo and gave a directive for traditional leaders to spearhead the exhumation and reburial of victims of Gukurahundi massacres in the Matabeleland region and Midlands province.
The disturbances took place in the early 1980s when Mnangagwa was then Minister of State Security.
NPRC chairperson, retired judge Selo Nare said the commission was shocked why it was totally excluded from the chiefs’ programme of leading the exhumation and reburial of thousands of Gukurahundi victims.
“Before I went on leave, somebody phoned me about the meeting between chiefs and the president in Bulawayo and I asked if I was invited or not. I said no,” a seemingly worried Nare told Matabeleland North-based peace committee in Bulawayo last week.
“I even called the NPRC offices to confirm if there was any message for me regarding the meeting, but there was none. I even came to Bulawayo a day before the meeting that is a Friday to be on stand-by, in case I was to be invited to attend the meeting.”
However, there was no invitation for the NPRC from the Office of the President and Cabinet.
“The meeting was closed and when a meeting is closed, the agenda is not supposed to be leaked unless someone comes and informs you. Maybe I will receive those details when I go to Harare after this exercise,” said Nare.
He told the provincial peace committee that he has also raised his reservations with Fortune Charumbira, the president of the Chiefs Council.
Nare went on to stress that under the Constitution, his organisation was the only institution allowed to carry out reconciliation processes.
“You are aware that the Constitution mandates us as NPRC to deal with these issues. Maybe the people sitting at home reading the newspapers thought our work had finished, but no. We still have our jobs and that is why we are here.
“Unfortunately as I said I went on leave, but I will in two weeks’ time find out from the (political) leadership that heads the commission, Vice President Kembo Mohadi to find out the progress and position towards that. I am planning to take some of the commissioners to that meeting,” Nare added.
He said while in South Africa during his vacation, he would occasionally ask fellow commissioners to update him on the chiefs’ meeting with the President.
However, the commissioners were also kept in the dark.
The decision by the government to engage traditional leaders in the exhumation and reburial of the Gukurahundi victims has also caused serious tensions in affected communities.
The Matabeleland North-based peace committee raised its reservations on allowing chiefs to be involved in the reconciliatory processes.
“Please can we have clarification on the chiefs’ involvement in the Gukurahundi exhumation and reburial. As far as the communities are concerned, the NPRC is the only organ which we have been working with in addressing the Gukurahundi issue. People in rural areas are now confused over who is in charge of the programme,” said of the participants.
The affected communities are also infuriated that Charumbira will lead the chiefs when, during his student days at the University of Zimbabwe, he made disparaging remarks against the people of Matabeleland who were then under attack from state-sponsored security agents.
He stands accused of using strong language against the people of the Matabeleland region while campaigning for a Student Representative Council (SRC) position.
“Let’s all Shonas, Zezurus, Manyikas, and Karangas unite against the common enemy – the Ndebeles,” he is accused of having used this as his campaign message.