No justice for violence perpetrators

HARARE - On June 13, 2008, two weeks before the sham presidential election runoff , three people under cover of the night descended on Samantha’s compound in Mutoko. They burnt her hut, hacked her husband to death and fled.

Although she made a police report, not a single arrest has been made.

This is a familiar tale in Zimbabwe’s troubled youthful history where victims of political violence are still to find peace as perpetrators continue walking free, thanks to a deep-rooted culture of impunity.

Wounds are still fresh as the country heads towards another election after a hiatus that was supposed to bridge rivers among former foes.

Although Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC claims that more than 200 of its supporters were killed during the 2008 presidential election run-off, there has been no meaningful movement towards creating a harmonious society.

Samantha says she is a forgiving woman who does not have problems pardoning people who attacked her and killed her husband four years ago for supporting the MDC.

Unfortunately she does not have anyone to forgive since her attackers never said “sorry”.

“I am a Christian but I find it difficult to forgive people who killed my husband in 2008 because they are unrepentant,” she said.

The figure of 200 people who were allegedly killed by Zanu PF shock-troopers in 2008 pales in comparison to the 20 000 plus people who were killed by a ruthless military brigade in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s.

The similarities though are many. Mugabe never apologised for the Gukurahundi atrocities of the 80s neither did he apologise for the 2008 violence.

In similar fashion, his supporters have not apologised for their “dastardly deeds” since independence, leaving victims like Samantha worried the immunity will breed more violence.

“If elections are coming there are no guarantees that there will be peace. I am still scared of elections. I am even scared to participate,” she said.

Strangely the issue of national healing appears to be of little significance to governing partners who are constantly fighting over government posts.

An Organ of National Healing and Reconciliation set by the “unity” government three years ago has failed to initiate the much needed healing process.

The Organ does not have a law to give it teeth and apparently past atrocities will be swept under the carpet.

The signing into law of the Human Rights Bill is for victims of political violence and human rights defenders a nail in the coffin on hopes of ever achieving justice for past crimes.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), which has offered legal assistance to hordes of victims, says human rights law is just not good enough but is better than nothing.

Under the law, a Human Rights Commission set up to deal with such issues will not look at cases that happened before 2009.

“ZLHR is also of the view that the protective mandate of the human rights commission is still not strong enough and the body’s independence is not properly safeguarded.

“With a constitutional referendum and elections on the horizon, and having reference to historical trends, the existence of a functional mechanism to investigate and deal with politically-motivated rights violations is extremely important, especially where such violations tend to worsen in the run-up to, and following, such national processes,” the lawyers said.

As the country races towards a watershed election to be held no later than June next year, threats of bloodshed and a potential coup if Mugabe loses have left the country on the edge.

Recently Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo warned of bloodbath if the MDC wins the elections while Justice minister and Mugabe loyalist Patrick Chinamasa told the BBC that army generals would step in if Tsvangirai beat Mugabe like he did in March 2008.

For a small country like Zimbabwe with a population of just over 12 million, the process of healing wounds inflicted by political divisions should not have been difficult, organisations like Heal Zimbabwe say.

While Mugabe has been preaching peace his followers seem to have other ideas as expressed by Chinamasa and Gumbo who have both warned of a gnashing of teeth if Zanu PF was to lose power to Tsvangirai.

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