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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles
the legacy of violence as the basis of national healing
March 31, 2010
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As part of their
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.
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.
of governance have been littered with violence. Violence is used
as a means to an end.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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