'Address Gukurahundi for healing, reconciliation'

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s history is tainted with incidences of unresolved cases of politically- motivated violence and without a functional National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) complimenting other interventions that seek to build peace and reconciliation in communities, social cohesion can never be achieved, peace watchdogs and analysts contend.

The sentiments come as in the last few weeks President Emmerson Mnangagwa faced protests by activists in South Africa and Bulawayo who demanded answers on the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities in which an estimated 20 000 Zimbabweans are thought to have perished.

Mnangagwa last week signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Act into law which analysts are optimistic will ensure a people centred Peace, Truth, Justice and Reconciliation process for Gukurahundi brought through an all stakeholders’ consultation process.

Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), which monitors and documents incidents of human rights violations and breaches of peace said while the Act has been anticipated for a while; it is a step in the right direction towards promoting national healing, unity and cohesion from wounds and trauma brought about by Zimbabwe’s legacy of sad episodes of conflict.

“Violent conflicts in the 1980s, 1990s, the 2000s has left an indelible mark for which Zimbabweans need to confront. There is need for truth telling, post conflict justice and taking action to promote deterrence and non-recurrence,” said ZPP.

ZPP is, however, disheartened by the intention expressed in the 2018 budget statement to reduce the budget of Chapter 12 commissions including the NPRC.

“Reducing the budget at this stage when a lot will be expected of the NPRC will be paralysing the commission and thus preventing it from ‘hitting the ground running’.”

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition’s spokesperson Tabani Moyo said as an organisation they reiterate their call on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately develop, through inclusive consultations, and roll out a citizen centred national healing and reconciliation programme.

“That should be built around transparency, truth and truth telling; justice; respect for the Constitution, human rights and rule of law.

“This should abandon any form of intimidation and violence on citizens that are demanding accountability from those officials that were involved in Gukurahundi,” said Moyo.

Moyo added that the process should allow citizens to freely express themselves as enshrined in the Constitution and allow public dialogue on the redress of past and current injustices.”

Chapter 12, section 252 of the Constitution provides for the NPRC with the mandate to bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice; to develop procedures and institutions at a national level; to develop programmes to ensure that persons subjected to persecution, torture and other forms of abuse receive rehabilitative treatment and support; to receive and consider complaints from the public and take such action in regard to the complains it considers appropriate.

Peace promoting organisation Heal Zimbabwe said it stands in solidarity with those calling for truth and justice for Gukurahundi.

“It is Heal Zimbabwe’s view that as long as key reconciliation issues such as Gukurahundi remain unaddressed, the country can never achieve wholesome and meaningful healing and reconciliation.

“Instead of crushing demonstrations on Gukurahundi and traumatising an already traumatised populace, the new administration must without hesitation, take the initiative to encourage truth telling so as to bring closure to this emotive reconciliation issue.”

Heal Zimbabwe said it recommends that Mnangagwa in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders appoints a substantive chairperson of the NPRC to replace the late Cyril Ndebele.

“The government must establish an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about the misconduct of the members of the security services in compliance with section 210 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

Political commentator Vivid Gwede said the issue of national healing is no longer a matter of personal discretion of politicians, but a constitutional imperative.

“Failure to appreciate that is a violation of the Constitution which in that regard stipulated for the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

“On a practical level, the issue of addressing the past is a fundamental question of national building for any political dispensation.

“That issue requires that people tell each other the truth whatever it is as the South Africans and Rwandans and many other countries did. That issue could be a time bomb and a drag on nation building.”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said Mnangagwa’s administration should develop a Gukurahundi programme within VP Kembo Mohadi’s office.

“Suppressing the Gukurahundi freedom of expression has been the most unfortunate stance for all Zanu PF governments since 1987.

“Mnangagwa must not follow the same stance. He must break it and engage. The only way and the best would be for his administration to facilitate for former president Robert Mugabe to tour the Gukurahundi hot rural districts to engage with locals on Gukurahundi,” said Mhlanga.

The playwright added that people will forgive if Mugabe leads the Gukurahundi healing dialogue.

“Mnangagwa and his comrades must never fool themselves that Gukurahundi would go away by itself. It will only get worse. Putting a lid on the issue has only helped to pass it on to the next generation as a Ndebele-Shona hate national programme,” said Mhlanga.

Political analyst MacDonald Lewanika believes the nation needs the institution of a national healing process that deals with Gukurahundi where the truth can be revealed through victims and perpetrators’ testimonies, sins atoned for and justice done.

“Such a process must be handled sensitively but impartially and independently. The best way of instituting such a process at the moment is through government facilitating the full operation of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission which the Constitution provides for, but is yet to have an enabling Act despite almost reaching halfway of the 10-year lifespan it’s provided with.

“So far, some goodwill may be gained from the institution of peace and healing roles in the presidency, but this has political fingerprints and is not the best way to handle this subject as it suggests political control possibly for purposes of censorship, so an independent process in which key stakeholders have a say on redress mechanisms would be the best way to go,” said Lewanika.

Analyst Rashweat Mukundu thinks Mnangagwa has started well by pronouncing on forgiveness. “What are needed now are the practicalities of this process which is identification and burial of victims, reparations for property lost, closure for families that lost loved ones and reconciliation.

“This to me is an issue that goes beyond the government but is a national agenda as Gukurahundi affected a significant number of people.

“This issue is not to be politicised for personal agendas of divisive political movements but used for truth telling and reconciliation and nation building.”

Mukundu said the government must therefore activate the national organ on reconciliation and peace building and capacitate it to tackle this matter “outside the self-serving political noises we hear from some groups but address the needs and interests of victims many of whom may not share the rhetoric of some extremists groups.”

Analyst Farai Maguwu said:  “I think government must take the issue head on by opening space for discussion. We must know all the facts about what caused this sad episode to ensure this will never happen again.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said there must be closure to the Gukurahundi story. “The new government should reach out to all the victims of Gukurahundi and openly and unequivocally apologise for that genocide that took the lives of thousands.

“While the physical, emotional and psychological scars of the Gukurahundi genocide might never completely heal, a lot will be achieved by the government accepting it was responsible for the unfortunate genocide and also taking concrete steps to compensate the victims.”