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Crafting of Exhumation, Reburial Policy of Liberation War And Gukurahundi Victims in Advanced Stage

FILE: Exhumation of remains of Gukurahundi victims in Matabeleland North.

Nunurai Jena

Government says drafting of exhumation and reburial policy currently underway is expected to go a long way in putting to finality the emotive and touching issues of exhumation and reburial of liberation war and post independence violence victims.
Officially opening the exhumation and reburial policy consultative meeting in Chinhoyi this afternoon Minister of State Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the successful drafting and implementation will give families and relatives of the deceased rights to recover the remains of their loved ones.

“This is therefore an important task ahead of us as a successful drafting and implementation of the exhumation policy will give families and relatives of the deceased the rights to recover the remains of their loved ones so that they can conduct customary funeral rites, mourn the dead and heal emotionally. The task also resonates very well with the concept of national peace and reconciliation commission,” said Mliswa.

She said the introduction of this policy shows the commitment of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in bringing to finality the exhumation of liberation war heroes that lie in bushes across the country.

Participants at the tense meeting were surprised to learn that the country had no policy on exhumation and reburials despite the conduction of some of them in 1980s and 1990s.

“As you may be aware that despite the long post independence history of exhumations there has been no policy concerning the exhumation and reburials,” said Mliswa.

One of the participants, Clemence Banda, said the successful drafting and implementation of the policy will allow those killed during Gukurahundi era to have decent burials.

“This is clear admission by government that there is need for decent burials for those killed during post independence violence and the compensation issue should be paramount,” said Banda.

Cornelious Muoni, Mashonaland West Zimbabwe liberation war veteran association
chairperson, said the policy would facilitate the granting of benefits of heroes feared dead during the liberation struggle.

“The reburials done under the policy will free families of the presumed dead to perform burial rituals according to customs and enjoy benefits that are attached,” said Muoni.

The programme of reburial of the skeletal remains of liberation fighters in mass graves started at former bases in Mozambique and Zambia in the 1980s and culminated with the establishment of shrines at sites such as Freedom Camp, Mkushi, Chimoi, Nyadzonya and Tembwe.

But exhumations of the victims of the violence in Matabeleland were partially conducted in the 1990s but were stopped by the government.

The setting up of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission has enabled for the first time an open public discussion on the post Independence conflicts such as civil unrest in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces and election violence.