Nduduzo Tshuma Bulawayo Bureau
President Mnangagwa yesterday said he takes seriously the grievances of the people of Matabeleland, including dialogue towards finding closure to the emotive and sensitive Gukurahundi issue.
He made the remarks at State House in Bulawayo where he met civic society organisations from Matabeleland in a frank and open discussion over a number of issues.
The President was accompanied by Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Dr Joram Gumbo and Registrar-General Mr Clement Masango to respond to concerns from the meeting.
Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, who is also head of secretariat in the engagement and dialogue with Matabeleland civic society organisations, presented the implementation matrix from last year’s meeting with Matabeleland Collective, before the engagement was broadened to include all organisations from the region.
The President listened to submissions by speakers, including suggestions on how to find closure on Gukurahundi.
He praised the speakers for speaking from their hearts on Gukurahundi, saying the approach will lead to consensus in mapping the way forward.
“My Government is committed to promoting the spirit of cooperation and dialogue amongst 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 Civic Society which are of such sensitivity and pain, that they 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 in Matabeleland to a level where they become permanent barriers that prevent meaningful dialogue amongst us.”
President Mnangagwa said his door remained open to everyone, even those who did not 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,” said the President.
“I reiterate that, as Zimbabweans, we are one. Together we can overcome any challenges that confront us.”
President Mnangagwa 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 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,” said President Mnangagwa.
“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?
“You are wondering whether this Government is sincere, if I ask you, 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.”
The President said Zimbabwe could not 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 Zipra’s properties.
President Mnangagwa reminded Mr Magwizi that there were engagements outside yesterday’s meeting that he was aware of, and advised him that the processes should remain in that platform.
The President urged Matabeleland Collective coordinator Mrs Jenny Williams not to lose heart in engaging the Government after she reported to him that a Cabinet Minister called her names.
President Mnangagwa said Government was working at achieving consensus on how best to address the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims in a manner that will not offend 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 civic society groups,” he said.
“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.”
President Mnangagwa said it was Government policy that ECD children should be taught by people who spoke 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,” he said.
“My Government recognises the need to use 16 recognised national languages, in particular at ECD levels.
“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.”
President Mnangagwa said the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services was 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,” he said.
President Mnangagwa urged provinces to use devolution funds to pursue priority developmental projects in their respective areas.