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'National healing needs full disclosure, justice'
Lizwe Sebatha, ZimOnline
September 23, 2009

Full disclosure of human rights atrocities and justice for victims of political violence dating back to the 1980s are key requirements to Zimbabwe achieving true national healing and reconciliation, National Healing co-Minister Sekai Holland said on Tuesday.

In comments likely to cause discomfort within the troubled coalition government between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party and the former opposition MDC parties, Holland told traditional chiefs from the southern Matabeleland region gathered at Elangeni Training Centre in Bulawayo that national healing needed to address the 1980s disturbances in southern Zimbabwe.

About 20 000 innocent civilians lost their lives in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces after Mugabe unleashed the army's notorious 5th Brigade ostensibly to crush an armed insurrection against his rule.

Mugabe has never apologised for the army atrocities also known as Gukurahundi although he has described the crackdown as "a moment of madness".

"In the 1980s there was talk of national healing and reconciliation after the Gukurahundi but was it achieved?" said Holland, who is one of the three ministers making up the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation drawn from the country's three political parties in the unity government.

"A circle of violence has continued to haunt Zimbabwe because a truly national healing and reconciliation process was never achieved. National healing does not only mean forgive and forget. It also means full disclosures, reparations to victims and some form of justice.

"And the only way to tame this circle of violence is when we start talking about national healing and reconciliation dating back from the 1980s," she said.

The organ is on a countrywide tour consulting traditional leaders over the best way forward to conduct the sensitive issue that analysts say might collapse the coalition government if not handled properly.

A power-sharing deal signed between Mugabe and MDC parties leading to the formation of the unity government in February, has national healing and reconciliation as one of the priorities of government to unite Zimbabweans who last year experienced some of the worst political violence in the run-up to a presidential run-off poll between Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai, who is now Prime Minister in the unity government, eventually pulled out of the run-off citing violence that his party says left more than 100 of its members dead and at least another 200 000 displaced, leaving Mugabe to claim victory uncontested.

Western governments and a host of African nations rejected Mugabe's victory while the African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community piled pressure on the Zimbabwean leader to form a power-sharing government with the opposition.

But the parties in the unity government are divided over who should lead the national healing process with ZANU PF opposing plans by the MDC formations to let the church and civic society steer the sensitive process.

ZANU PF, which has been in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980, is said to favour a national healing process led by politicians and political parties in the hope of striking concessions against prosecution for past human rights crimes.

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