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Gukurahundi victims demand child school fee exemptions

SURVIVORS of the 1980s government atrocities on people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, better known as Gukurahundi, have demanded school fees payment exemption on all children in areas that were affected by the disturbances.

This is contained in an annual 2019 report by the National Healing and Reconciliation Commission (NHRC).

According to the report titled "Transitioning Zimbabwe from A Conflicting Past to A Sustainable Harmonious and Peaceful Society through Generation", the victims, in several meetings held with the Commission, recommended compensation in the short and long term.

"The recommendation proffered by victims centred on the compensation, specifically victims requested that in short term, there be exemption of school fees payment to all children in Gukurahundi affected areas.

"As a long-term measure, there was request for educational funds to be put in place to construct schools and offer bursaries to children of victims in the areas that were affected by Gukurahundi," said NHRC.

The report also said there was a suggestion that victims who sustained physical impairment due to torture should be accorded psychosocial support and medical health care by government.

The Commission said in Southern region (Matabeleland South, North, Bulawayo, and Midlands) there was widespread unhappiness over delays in dealing conclusively with the emotive issue in which 20 000 civilians are said to have died in the hands of a brutal military.

"After meetings held in September 2019 in Bulawayo, the Commission received advice from forensic experts who have previously undertaken exhumations.

"The department learnt that the process of undertaking exhumations begins with a family member or traditional leader requesting for exhumation process.

"The needs and wishes of families are central to the activities that must precede that exhumation for example prayer or traditional rituals," read the report.

From meeting held, the Commission noted that it was evident that exhumation and reburial of victims not buried in a dignified way will complete the mourning process and bring some closure to the pain and loss.

"Furthermore, the inability for families to be able to exhume the remains may be interpreted by communities, as an impediment prejudicial to peace building exercise.

"Based on the outcome of the meeting alluded above the Commission prepared to supervise the first set of exhumation which were scheduled for December 2019.

"The exercise was to be undertaken in collaboration with Ministry of Home Affairs, Cultural and Heritage through department of National Museams, the Registrar General Office, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Ministry of Health as well as counsellors from Civic Society," said the report.

The Commission said the exercise was however postponed for undertaking in 2020.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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