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Zimbabwe: Gukurahundi exhumations a delicate issue which cannot be handled ineptly: analysts

Staff Reporter

HARARE – Zimbabwean political analysts this week expressed mixed views on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent pledge that Government would facilitate the exhumation and reburials of victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide, which killed an estimated 20,000 civilians, displaced many and left others homeless in Midlands and the Matabeleland region.

Mbuso Fuzwayo a researcher and member of Gukurahundi pro-justice grouping Ibhetshu Likazulu, said this week that Gukurahundi was a national issue that must not be attributed to Matabeleland alone.

“You cannot say it should be a Matabeleland thing,” said Fuzwayo, whose organization has pushed for justice and closure on the genocide. “It is something where national resources were spent to carry out the exercise and we should approach it with the national outlook, to say what form of Zimbabwe do we want.”

He said the exhumations, if they were to be carried out would need to have experts to conduct the process.

“Different organisations have been doing different things on the matter and we have experienced organisations with experienced people and expertise on exhumation. The manner that it is interpreted in the village is different from the intention,” added Fuzwayo.

“Procedure is important because you cannot just say we are going to exhume. It must be explained to communities on how it should be done because we are talking about a crime and it will be a crisis once evidence is destroyed during exhumation. Some graves are unmarked and others are in the bushes and there is need to involve communities.”

Echoing the same sentiments was lawyer and politician David Coltart, who expressed the need for further thoughts before exhumations are carried.

“The issue of exhumations needs further thoughts as it is very important that it is done in a scientific manner with forensic pathologists well-trained internationally, who can identify bodies in mass graves and separate bones of different victims and of course, through DNA, testing bones. This is important from a cultural and healing perspective,” said Coltart, who warned the exercise must not be conducted in an inept manner.

“This is an exercise that should not be carried in a clumsy fashion as it needs careful planning and liaisons with families.”

Gukurahundi has been a thorny subject with minimum public debate until recently, when Mnangagwa met Civil Society Organisations’ leaders to discuss a possible way forward.

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