From Gukurahundi survivor to reconciler: The story of a forgiving chief Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana chats to Chief Charumbira in Bulawayo on Thursday

Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]

ONE of the 72 chiefs who are set to lead the Gukurahundi hearings in Matabeleland North and South knows the pains of the post-independence conflict because he is a survivor of the disturbances himself, vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Chiefs Council, Senator Chief Charumbira revealed yesterday.

The conflict, which ended after the signing of the historic Unity Accord by the late former President Cde Robert Mugabe and late Vice-President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo in 1987, left a trail of trauma and bitterness among the people of Matabeleland and Midlands.

Speaking at a media sensitisation workshop on Gukurahundi hearings coverage that ended in Bulawayo yesterday, Chief Charumbira said out of professional courtesy, he was not going to name the traditional leader but confirmed the assault on the chief.

“Yes, we have one of the Chiefs among the 72 who was assaulted during the disturbances but I am not going to reveal his name here,” said Chief Charumbira.

He was responding to a question from members of the media on whether there were victims among the chiefs and if so whether such individuals were able to handle the hearing process without being overwhelmed by emotions.

“A chief is chosen by God, he has a God-given duty to execute those duties. So the chief in question is ready and prepared to execute his duties as mandated by the constitution of this country, even though he is also a victim of the Gukurahundi conflict,” said Chief Charumbira.

The chief in question is not only a survivor but also a reconciler. He is leading by example showing the people that healing and forgiveness are possible and that the past should not define the future.

Each of the 72 chiefs will be leading a team of 14 rapporteurs who have various skills to handle different situations during submissions by victims and witnesses.

Chief Charumbira also told delegates that they are culture and language-conscious of the region where the hearings will take place and as such, all the chiefs and their rapporteurs will operate from their areas of jurisdiction.

“Binga will be handled by people from the area, the same as Plumtree. We want the victims and witnesses to feel comfortable because they will be talking to people that they know instead of strangers. Security services agents and members of the media are not going to be allowed inside hearings because we want this process to be as comfortable as possible to people making submissions,” said Chief Charumbira.

However, there were serious reservations from members of the media who felt barring them will be contrary to calls by President Mnangagwa for people to freely speak about the matter.

There was a general consensus from the media that those covering the hearings must undergo conflict-sensitive reporting, get accredited specifically for the hearing process and also adhere to certain standards that will be set by a seven-member technical committee led by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) executive secretary, Godwin Phiri.

Members of the committee are Nduduzo Tshuma, Chronicle Assistant Editor (Online), Victoria Ruzvidzo Sunday Mail Editor, Albert Chekai (ZBC), Annastacia Ndlovu (Voice of America), Chris Chinaka (Zimfact) and Monica Zodwa Cheru (ZimNow).

The committee will come up with standard operating procedures for journalists covering the hearings.

The workshop was organised by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and had the support of both the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services as well as the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

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