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Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles
transitional justice to the people: Outreach report
Rights NGO Forum
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Many years of
direct and structural violence in Zimbabwe have left the country
with a physically and emotionally wounded people; property destroyed;
populations condemned to the Diaspora as political and economic
refugees and many internally displaced peoples. Attendant on all
this is the politics of violence and intolerance, which pervades
Zimbabwe's political space and peoples.
Political Agreement (GPA) between the two MDC formations and
ZANU (PF) in September 2008 provided the necessary reprieve to ask
questions about the transition of the country into a democracy.
The space or opportunity brokered by the GPA motivated the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) to set out a series of meetings
in its Taking Transitional Justice to the People Program to consult
and educate Zimbabweans who have gone through epochs of state sponsored
and politically motivated violence in their lives on the nature
and processes of transitional justice.
was not in any way structured to begin processes of transitional
justice or national healing in Zimbabwe. However, it was set to
begin consultations, educate and equip citizens with the necessary
and background information on transitional justice and redress in
all its forms. From January-June 2009 the Forum visited thirteen
constituencies and met and discussed with people from all backgrounds;
teachers, police officers, mothers, youths, elderly people, clergymen,
traditional leaders and other professionals. The Forum conducted
sessions in schools, town halls, in both rural and urban settings.
Public discussions were held in English, Shona, Ndebele and Tonga
speaking communities. In these open forum discussions, people expressed
themselves in their language of choice.
In the consultative meetings,
actors, sponsors and victims of violence were discussed. The participants
noted the manifestations of these violent acts in rape, torture,
murder, extortions, kidnappings, blackmail, disappearances, destructions
of property, humiliations, selective food and agricultural input
distributions and so many other methods. Actors in violence were
identified as men, women and youths, soldiers in uniforms, the policemen
on duty, secret police and youth from the National Youth Training
Service commonly known as the "Green Bombers" among others.
The victims also cut across sections of Zimbabweans from all walks
Four hundred and forty
two (442) people took part in the discussions stretching over six
months. 47.1% of the participants were women and 52.9% were men.
The participants just below the age of twenty years were 2.16% and
those above the age of sixty constituted only 7.69% of the participants.
It can be inferred that those below twenty years may not have been
involved because they could have been at school or college during
the sessions or they were not interested and those above sixty could
have been apathetic to political discourses or may simply not have
been able to travel to the venues.
The Forum approached
its program in a manner that informed the participants about the
concept of transitional justice, how it works and has been applied
in other settings. Participants were given opportunities during
the brief presentations to contribute in the debates. The transitional
justice approaches that dominated the Taking Transitional Justice
to the People's discussions were truth commissions, reparations,
truth for amnesty and prosecutions. The participants made interesting
contributions that should be used to inform and shape the direction
of transitional justice discourses in Zimbabwe. What became clear
was that people want to talk about their past and they need the
platform to do so. What they were not sure about was the possibility,
in light of the fact that ZANU (PF) still wields enormous power
to scuttle the process before it even begins. Accordingly, there
were calls for thorough institutional reforms particularly the security
sector, which they said was blatantly partisan, unprofessional and
cannot be trusted. The participants proffered comprehensive options
for security sector reforms, which they believed, could rescue these
institutions from partisan influencing.
It was difficult to agree
on the starting period for this transitional justice. The participants
and victims constantly referred to the two phases - the recent past
(1998 - 2008), and the distant past (1980s and back into the Rhodesian
era). While challenges in handling the Rhodesian violations were
acknowledged, there were serious concerns that leaving the era uncovered
was an injustice on its own. It was pointed out that the seeds of
current violence and impunity were sown during that time. A small
group of about 50-60 people per meeting was randomly invited to
attend the meetings. The selection was not controlled/scientific
in any way. This explains the gender representation at the discussions.
Furthermore, the facilitators needed small manageable groups to
be effective. However, in the rural areas articulate teachers and
other professionals attended these meetings and contributed to the
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