President Emmerson Mnangagwa has berated some opposition parties and foreign countries who he accused of using the emotive Gukurahundi genocide to gain political mileage.
Mnangagwa was speaking at the Bulawayo State House, Monday where he launched a community engagement programme, which marked the beginning of a chiefs-driven programme which will see the traditional leaders consulting and dialoguing with their communities on Gukurahundi.
“The Gukurahundi issue has provided fertile ground for those who seek to retain us in a locked position of perpetual conflict and acrimony,” Mnangagwa said.
“Some political formations have sought to use the Gukurahundi issue as a political weapon which they deploy in the regions of Matabeleland and Midlands in order to gain political mileage for selfish political ends.
“You will have noted that whenever we approach elections external forces using political parties which they control, make a concerted effort to incite citizens to engage in divisive conduct, ostensibly all under the quest of achieving what they term justice for the region.
“To the external detractors who seek to maintain Gukurahundi as a perennial fountain of conflict, I say to you lingena ngaphi (where do you come in). This is a matter for Zimbabweans and shall be resolved by the people of Zimbabwe.
“These mischievous actors have not succeeded and they will not succeed. As Zimbabweans, we have continued to boldly seek the path of peace and dialogue as a way of resolving all the issues that confront us.”
Mnangagwa went on to say his government will not allow any external forces to interfere with internal processes, particularly the Gukurahundi redressing.
“For too long, we have let our differences hinder our collective development. We have allowed external forces with hostile intentions towards this country to dictate to us how we should conduct our affairs and relationships with each other.
Today we make an unapologetic statement to the effect that tribalism, regionalism and ethnic hostilities have no place in our beloved motherland, Zimbabwe. We are determined to build as one nation, acting in unison and speaking with one clear voice,” he said.
The president however said despite the government’s determination to achieve unity, “our nation has not been spared of the divisive machinations of our detractors who seek to drive a wedge between our people, and generally destabilise our country.”
As if to respond to the debate on the use of traditional leaders to deal with the Gukurahundi issue ahead of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), Mnangagwa said the chiefs were empowered by the constitution to resolve such conflicts.
“Our Constitution and customary law empower our chiefs to resolve conflicts amongst our people in accordance with our traditions and customs. The resolution of conflict in our tradition is not a prescriptive process but one that involves consultations and dialogue among affected parties.
“The very construction of our traditional conflict resolution system renders chiefs the most suitable leaders to engage in the process of finding concrete and lasting solutions to all the challenges that our people encounter,” Mnangagwa said.
“Let me hasten to state that the process we are about to engage in, should not be misconstrued as an isolated endeavour designed for only a fraction of our citizenry,” he said.
“It is indeed a defining occasion for the whole country as it is an apt demonstration that under my watch, the Second Republic is determined to resolve whatever conflict between us internally and without interference from external forces.
“After all, churches, bishops, NGOs and chiefs, among others, have always been in existence, yet conflict was experienced. As President, I took a bold and yet decisive initiative for the nation to open up, discuss and more importantly, bring to finality this Gukurahundi,” he said.
“Our Traditional Leaders who are the custodians of our culture are best placed to deal with issues affecting their respective communities in consultation with government.”
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa appealed for cooperation as the traditional leaders embark on their duties.
“I appeal to the chiefs as they embark on this very important assignment to diligently carry out their duties guided by the principles of Ubuntu. In the same vein, I also appeal to the general public to unite behind this noble cause. I urge the affected people and communities to cooperate with our traditional leaders in this process,” he said.