Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday said he takes seriously the grievances of the people of Matabeleland including dialogue towards finding closure in relation to the emotive and sensitive Gukurahundi issue.
The President made the remarks at State House in Bulawayo where he met civil society organisations from Matabeleland in a frank and open discussion over a number of issues in a never seen before engagement by a Head of State in the country.
The President also brought with him the Minster of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe, Acting Minister of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare Joram Gumbo and Registrar General Mr Clement Masango to respond to concerns from the meeting.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza who is also head of secretariat in the engagement and dialogue with Matabeleland civil society organisations, presented on the implementation matrix from last year’s meeting with Matabeleland Collective before the engagement was broadened to include all organisations from the region this year.
In the meeting, the President listened attentively to submissions by speakers on issues including suggestions on how to find closure on Gukurahundi.
He praised the individuals for speaking from their hearts on issues of Gukurahundi saying the approach will lead to a consensus in finding lasting solutions on the way forward.
“My Government is committed to promoting the spirit of cooperation and dialogue among all Zimbabweans where dialogue totally eclipses confrontation as a method of choice in resolving thorny issues that may rise or have risen in our society.
“Allow me therefore, to proffer a few words of advice in view of the issues that have been raised by the Matabeleland Civil Society which are of such sensitivity and pain and are always going to raise sharp differences and emotions in any discussion to resolve them. However, we must resist the urge to elevate any differences that arise out of discussions aimed at resolving the issues of Matabeleland to a level where they become permanent barriers that prevent meaningful dialogue among us,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said his door remains open to everyone even those who didn’t attend yesterday’s meeting on issues that affect the region.
“Let me assure you that, as I have demonstrated by convening this meeting today, I shall continue to monitor this dialogue very closely and hold all my officials accountable for the successful implementation of issues discussed here. I reiterate that, as Zimbabweans we are one. Together we can overcome any challenges that confront us,” said Cde Mnangagwa.
The President took time to respond to issues raised by various speakers.
Dr Dumisani Ngwenya from Matabeleland Collective asked President Mnangagwa if he was sincere about bringing closure to the Gukurahundi.
“I think Cde Ngwenya, I’m very pleased with what you said because it came from your heart, a platform like this one is created for that purpose, once those grievances are stated, again it will require all the stakeholders with grievances to come together and say how do we move forward and not how do we move backwards,” responded the President.
“You are wondering whether this Government is sincere, if I ask are you sincere, what would you say? And I believe what you were saying is sincere from your point of view, I also believe that you should believe me that after 39 years of silence I say let’s talk about this thing and you doubt my sincerity. I don’t know what you would want to see.”
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe cannot leave in the past but learn from it and adopt the good things and never repeat the bad.
A representative of the Zipra Veterans Trust Mr Buster Magwizi raised the issue of the Zipra’s properties.
The President reminded Mr Magwizi that there were engagements outside yesterday’s meeting that Mr Magwizi is aware of advising that the processes should remain in that platform.
The President also urged Matabeleland Collective coordinator Ms Jenni Williams not to lose heart in engaging the Government after she reported to him that a Cabinet Minister called her names.
President Mnangagwa said the Government is working at achieving consensus on how best to address the exhumations and reburials of Gukurahundi victims in a manner that will not offend against anyone.
“In due course, I will receive recommendations from all concerned parties including the affected families, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the traditional leaders and other civil society groups. It is my sincere desire that we conduct the exercise of these exhumations in a manner that will bring healing to those in pain and unity within our society,” said the President.
President Mnangagwa said it is Government policy that ECD children should be taught by people who speak their mother language.
“The importance of access to quality and relevant education cannot be over-emphasised, more so during the formative stages of our learners. My Government recognises the need to use the 16 recognised national languages, in particular at ECD levels,” he said.
“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education reiterated this Government policy only last week.
“We urge communities to encourage those in the teaching fraternity with competences in various languages to come forward as building blocks for the success of the policy.”
In the same vein, the President said the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services is concluding processes to issue language-based community radio stations.
“These endeavours by my Government are designed to entrench the principle of inclusivity and unity in our diversity,” said President Mnangagwa.
The President urged provinces to utilise the devolution funds to pursue priority developmental projects in their respective areas.