DETHRONED Ntabazinduna Chief Felix Nhlanhlayemangwe Ndiweni has claimed that local traditional leaders were captured by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to “white wash” the Gukurahundi massacres.
BY SILAS NKALA
In a 17-page petition directed to Attorney-General Prince Machaya, Ndiweni, who is currently in the United Kingdom, said chiefs could not adjudicate over matters such as the Gukurahundi as their jurisdiction only allows them to deal with civil matters.
His remarks came after President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently tasked traditional leaders to preside over exhumation and reburial of the victims of the brutal genocide that claimed 20 000 lives in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the early 1980s.
Ndiweni was dethroned as a traditional leader by Mnangagwa’s administration in 2019 on allegations that his installation was unlawful, and that his elder brother, Joram, was the rightful person to succeed their late father Chief Khayisa Ndiweni.
“Where have the chiefs obtained this power to adjudicate on the genocide? Some wrongly argue that the chiefs are coming into the genocide matter because of the exhumation of bodies and reburial, that requires a traditional, custom and practice component,” Ndiweni said.
“As far as the administration is concerned, that would be the end of the Ndebele genocide. Clearly, the chiefs have been hoodwinked into the process and are being used as a shield by the administration, so that they may white wash the Ndebele genocide,” he said.
The dethroned chief said this should only occur when the judicial component — evidence gathering, reparations, peace and reconciliation — has been completed.
“The chiefs should have been more alert and resist entering into this half-baked affair. Even if they declare that the matter is now closed, we will resuscitate it when a proper government takes office, so that everything begins with a judicial process.”
He said if this was a genuine attempt at resolving the genocide, it should have started with a referendum, a plebiscite, in Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces, where the genocide occurred asking the people if they wanted the chiefs to be part of the process.
Ndiweni said in order to identify the remains of the victims, pathologies and scientific investigative tools need to be applied before any grave is disturbed, or the remains exhumed for reburial.
“Science would distinguish the bones and their separation and removal has to be delicate and methodical, with accurate records kept. The reburial can only be done after this process because customs, traditions, practices and norms require that it is one body that is attended to at a time,” he said.
Ndiweni said the spirit world would not allow for bones of one person to be wrongly buried with those of another.
Contacted for comment on the issue, Machaya said he had not yet seen Ndiweni’s petition.
“I have not seen the petition and anyway, it would be wrong for such a petition to come to me,” he said.