Document spells out guidelines for chiefs’ conduct of hearings

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter 

TRADITIONAL leaders yesterday released the Manual on Community Engagement Process by Chiefs on the Gukurahundi Issue which will guide them when conducting public hearings.

President Mnangagwa was handed copies of the manual which the Government has adopted. 

President on Gukurahundi issue

The manual provides step-by-step procedures that chiefs have to undertake as they conduct the hearings. The manual provides objectives of the community engagement processes which include identifying direct and indirect victims of Gukurahundi, developing a record of the events that transpired during the period and capturing the sentiments of victims and allowing them to express themselves.  The other objective is to develop a national narrative on the Gukurahundi experience.  The manual says the best way of inviting communities to hearings is by using local languages.  During the hearings, views from the public and possible solutions will be obtained and the engagements aim at peacebuilding, reconciliation, restoration and development of cultural values and develop a national narrative of the Gukurahundi experience. The chiefs are expected to outline to communities why the community engagements are being conducted.

President on Gukurahundi issue

“After an invitation from the National Council of Chiefs, the chiefs from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South have deliberated on the issue of Gukurahundi that has been haunting our people and souls of this part of the region hence it has been resolved and seen fit that it was high time that the people of Matabeleland say what is in their hearts,” reads the manual.

According to the manual, everyone who attends the chiefs’ community engagement programme is expected to be introduced as this is key in dispelling suspicions among participants.

“The introductions are important because they create a safe space for a suspicious community. The identification of those present at the meeting can dispel fear, provide reassurance and a sense of safety. Introductions also serve to highlight or reveal the identities and roles of new members in the chiefs panel and secretariat,” reads the manual.

It also states that chiefs will also adopt an open-door policy so that those who fail to openly submit their contributions can do so privately to them.

It says participants will be prohibited from wearing political regalia. The manual also states that participants must only be members of the same community.

President on Gukurahundi issue

“The chiefs are encouraged to engage people who reside in his or her jurisdiction only. It is easier to identify members living in the same community. Information provided by unknown individuals (strangers) living outside the community can be false and fabricated. However, special exceptions may be accorded to known persons who had moved to resettlement areas,” reads the manual.

While most public hearings are expected to be conducted in rural areas, chiefs have also made a provision to cater for those living in urban areas.

The manual states that urbanites can visit their rural homes and make testimonies when hearings are being held in their areas.  Chiefs may also conduct outreaches in urban areas.

“An option is open to the chief’s subject in concurrence with the National Council of Chiefs to conduct outreach programmes in urban areas where they would be allowed to give submissions. Like what was done for ‘Wenela’,” reads the chief’s manual.

The chiefs have also identified specific groups that will need attention during the community engagement process.

Some of them include alleged rape victims, alleged sodomy victims, alleged torture victims, lobby groups and activists, ex-combatants such as Zapu and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) members, people with disability and the elderly.

President on Gukurahundi issue

“In the event that a known victim by community fails to appear at the engagement meetings, it is recommended that the chiefs may instruct his messenger accompanied by a religious leader, relative or counsellor to visit the person concerned to explain the importance of their participation in the programme. The chief in this regard is encouraged to continue engaging the person concerned without being authoritative as the process is victim centred,” reads the manual.

President Mnangagwa And Chiefs Gukurahundi Indaba

The traditional leaders panel include the chief, headman, village heads, religious leaders, counsellors, women representatives, elders and young people.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) has also been included as it is expected to guide the performance of traditional and customary rites, especially on issues to do with reburials and appeasing of spirits (umbuyiso).

All the traditional leaders will be expected to submit their reports to the National Council of Chiefs.

President Mnangagwa And Chiefs Gukurahundi Indaba

“The National Council of Chiefs has the responsibility of consolidating the findings and recommendations of the whole process,” reads the manual.

The chiefs will have a centralised communication system led by the National Council of Chief president Chief Charumbira on all issues relating to Gukurahundi.

While the manual provides a step-by-step guide to be followed by traditional leaders, the report also states that there is need for flexibility depending on contextual issues.

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Article Source: The Chronicle

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