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National Healing organ set for review
Wongai Zhangazha, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
May 27, 2011

SADC facilitators and Zimbabwe's GPA negotiators have agreed to a review of the dormant Organ of National Healing and Reconciliation to give it life and a mandate to justify its existence. The organ's issue was raised with the Sadc-backed facilitators after several failed attempts by ministers responsible for the organ - Vice President John Nkomo, Sekai Holland and Moses Mzila Ndlovu - to summon the country's security ministers and security chiefs to meetings aimed at addressing alleged selective application of the law and resurgent political violence over the past three months.

Nkomo's office tried to summon Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Home Affairs co-ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone but was spurned.

Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, army chief Philip Sibanda, police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and CIO director-general Happyton Bonyongwe also snubbed the negotiators saying they reported to President Robert Mugabe.

Mzila Ndlovu, who is also one of the negotiators, said there were frustrations in the ministry because it operated in a vacuum and there was no enabling Act giving the department authority to investigate cases and summon people for interviews.

"At the last round of negotiations held in Cape Town, the organ was under scrutiny after an assessment on the performance of the ministry revealed that it was not functional. Issues were raised of how difficult it was for it to operate without any written legislation," said Mzila Ndlovu.

He said the absence of a law to give direction to the organ was one of the oversights of the GPA.

The organ's work is presently done in close liaison with Jomic, which supervises its work and reports to cabinet.

"The facilitators intervened and it was agreed that there be a serious review of the organ on national healing. It was decided that there be a framework for this ministry to ensure that we really do our work."

Mzila Ndlovu hoped that the negotiators would start working on the legal basis of the organ at their next meeting.

The ministry has no clearly defined policy on what its day-to-day activities are leading to some analysts calling it irrelevant.

They argue that the organ is just "a smokescreen to cover up government's reluctance to tackle head-on the perpetrators of political violence".

"The attitude and behaviour of the MDC towards the issue of justice for victims of political violence is disappointing," said an analyst. "They seem to be colluding with Zanu PF to sweep the issue under the carpet. One would have thought the MDC would be driven by values of respect for life and the principle of justice rather than by selfish political considerations."

"It's not just about an enabling Act," the analyst said. "It is also about political will. I doubt that there is sufficient courage and the will to deal with this issue in the current government set up. There are people with skeletons in the cupboard and they are afraid of being prosecuted. I have not heard of any country in the world that has achieved truth, justice and reconciliation while the perpetrators of the violence and injustice are still in power."

Mzila Ndlovu accepted the criticism saying he was disappointed by the way the national healing process was being operated.

He said: "The only national healing outreach campaign which we jointly held since I joined the ministry was last year when we went on a shoe distribution exercise in the Midlands, Gwanda and Bulawayo.

"It was a noble thing to do assisting vulnerable children but with the current work that we are expected to do, I was not convinced. I am still failing to understand the connection with the issue."

The organ is likely to clash with the proposed Human Rights Commission (HRC) that will deal with human rights cases which happened after the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.

Mzila-Ndlovu described the proposal as mischievous and insensitive to human rights abuse victims.

"We cannot just ignore issues of the past. For me the real work should start on ethnic healing. People should accept that for healing to take place those who violated human rights issues should come out in the open and apologise.

"The problems we are facing now are historical and should be addressed. The HRC will be insensitive to victims. I don't subscribe to the notion that it is water under the bridge. I think this issue must be brought back to the negotiators and say when we created this what did we have in mind," said Mzila-Ndlovu.

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