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  • Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles

  • Overcoming the legacy of violence as the basis of national healing
    Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
    March 31, 2010

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    As part of their ongoing policy dialogue series SAPES Trust hosted a discussion about overcoming the legacy of violence in Zimbabwe at their offices on April 1 2010. Political activist Judith Todd chaired the discussion. Thoko Matshe, who has over 20 years of development experience, was the evening's presenter and Sekai Holland, Minister of State for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration in the office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was the discussant.

    Below are some of the issues raised by these speakers.

    Thoko Matshe

    Political activist Thoko Matshe began the discussion by presenting her thoughts on the legacy of political violence in Zimbabwe. She pointed out the historical use of violence in the wars between the Shona and Ndebele tribes that settled on the Zimbabwe Plateau, to the pioneer column, through to the Liberation struggle, Gukurahundi and the 2008 elections.

    Our systems of governance have been littered with violence. Violence is used as a means to an end. Listen

    Violence is pervasive in our communities and in our lives in this country. We cannot overcome what we have not acknowledged or defined. And as long as we do not name the violence for what it is we will not be able to overcome it. Listen

    There is a common thing where we use the youth to perpetrate acts of violence. As a result we have a youth who by and large that think that when someone does not agree the use of violence is the means that they will use to make them agree. The political parties and civil society use the youth with impunity. It is really a very painful thing, in the sense that we are killing the leadership of tomorrow. Listen

    Matshe dismissed the notion of having a truth and reconciliation commission in Zimbabwe based on the one used in South Africa after Apartheid, saying that the current state of finger pointing and apportioning blame would not allow it to work. She was however in favour of having some form of transitional justice.

    At this point in time I really do think that the most we can do is to start with issues of transitional justice before we move on to other things. I see transitional justice as something that will strengthen democracy. We cannot, I think, fully address dealing with issues of transitional justice if we do not do an active consultation with groups affected by violence. Listen

    There's a need for accountability, there's a need for truth recovery, there's a need for reconciliation, there's a need for institutional reform and reparations. These are things that we need within transitional justice. Listen

    Sekai Hove-Holland

    In her remarks Minister Sekai Hove-Holland began by describing how the Organ for National Healing came about. She pointed out the eagerness of both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe to begin the process of National Healing and Reconciliation. She agreed with Thoko Matshe that Zimbabwe has a history of violence. She spoke about the Organ of National Healings history project in collaboration with Masvingo State University to understand Zimbabwe's violent past as a step towards National Healing.

    We asked Professor Bhebhe the historian at Masvingo State University, to help us put together a history project which will see us really looking at our history in its beauty, and in it ugliness to understand the place of violence in our society, and together, to celebrate the very brilliant things that have been brought here by every group. And to work together to create a new society where we know where we have come from. Listen

    The culture of silence is not a new thing. If you dare talk about how violence was used in any of the conquering armies its not allowed. It is not allowed. What we realised was that for the organ to be effective we had to open the debate and get people to start talking about institutional violence today. Because people say that it's not there. So in conversations I'm very lucky, because when I'm told by my colleagues in ZANU PF that there is no violence I say 'excuse me we were tortured, 140 of us at Machipisa Police Station by police people dressed in police uniform. And the women in their hats and their nice shoes and stockings were the worst of the torturers.' Listen

    If you don't as academics strive to understand how the coercive instruments are working now, we lose it! In Epworth, my constituency, we have seven bases. I know all of them by name. I also know that when they went to set them up I wrote a letter to the Co-Ministers [for Home Affairs] and that because we made it public with the international media, they have turned bases but with the same people into woodlots for selling wet firewood. They are still bases, but if we don't bravely do a follow up exercise we are going to lose it. Listen

    What it requires, the overcoming of violence is an all-inclusive process that embraces every Zimbabwean; that acknowledges that there is no healing that will take place until individuals are healed. If I had not been tortured I would not see things like this. I hear people saying you have to focus on the victims and the perpetrators, but from my personal experience, I know that the families of the people who are tortured are the one who are the most affected, because they have to look after the welfare of that torture victim and then survivor if they live through their experience. And if they die. They are the ones who have to do everything without anybody understanding that. They are the ones who really want to go out and beat somebody. So when we talk about National Healing in Zimbabwe, think of the tortured person, the family and also the community. Then you have to think of the friends. If you get the figure which we are working with, one million, if you say in Zimbabwe, when you are tortured its your family who comes from your mothers side, or your fathers side as happened in my case. You have ten other people for one torture survivor who are traumatised. So the whole society is traumatised. The methods of addressing healing have to look at the entire society as being traumatised and deeply so. We have to give room to every Zimbabwean to express their feelings because they are very deep. Listen

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