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

  • National Healing – Peace Watch
    August 04, 2009

    The Work of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration

    After the Three Days Dedicated to National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, the Organ is now embarking on nation-wide consultations. This is another stage in the six month process which the Organ intends to follow:

    • Three-day National Dedication period to prepare for the work of healing according to everyone’s customs and religious practices.
    • Visits of the 3 Ministers in the Organ and their staff throughout all the provinces targeting opinion leaders, traditional chiefs, faith-based leaders and civil society representatives over a period of two months, in order to ensure full participation of the public and exploring with them potential mechanisms to implement a national healing and reconciliation process.
    • Taking the results of the provincial soundings to a meeting with local, regional and international experts to assist the Organ in formulating recommendations for appropriate mechanisms and systems to be put into place.
    • An All Stakeholders Conference to finalise the programme for national healing, reconciliation and integration. Members of civil society and political parties will be invited. The All Stakeholders Conference will be responsible for defining the details of the programme and the timeline in which it is to operate.
    • The production of the Policy and Programme of the Organ and the setting up of the Secretariat with defined departments and hiring of staff.

    Provisions for the Organ on National Healing in the GPA



    7. Equality, National Healing, Cohesion and Unity

    7.1 The Parties hereby agree that the new Government:

    a) will ensure equal treatment of all regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, place of origin and will work towards equal access to development for all;

    b) will ensure equal and fair development of all regions of the country and in particular to correct historical imbalances in the development of regions;

    c) shall give consideration to the setting up of a mechanism to properly advise on what measures might be necessary and practicable to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre and post independence political conflicts; and

    d) will strive to create an environment of tolerance and respect among Zimbabweans and that all citizens are treated with dignity and decency irrespective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, place of origin or political affiliation.

    e) will formulate policies and put measures in place to attract the return and repatriation of all Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and in particular will work towards the return of all skilled personnel.

    Composition of the Organ

    The Organ is set up and works from the President’s office. It is led by a troika of Mr. John Nkomo, Minister of State in the Presidents Office as Chairman, Mrs. Sekai Holland as Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office and Mr. Gibson Sibanda, who was Minister of State in Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara’s office, but is now working in that office as a consultant. [He was not able to continue as a Minister, as he did not gain a Parliamentary seat within the stipulated 3 months.] [None of the members of the Organ are Cabinet members, but as it is based in the President’s office its policy and decisions go to Cabinet via the President.]

    Ceremony to Launch the Three Days Dedicated to National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration

    All three members of the Organ [Minister Nkomo, Minister Holland and Mr Sibanda] and the three principals to the GPA [President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara] addressed the gathering, which consisted mostly of Ministers, officials, political party members, and war veterans, with a few diplomats, members of civil society and the press also attending.

    The speeches were redolent of love, forgiveness and goodwill. There was talk of the “cleansing of our land, Zimbabwe, from the curse of conflict and bloodshed”, that we should be “focusing on forgiveness, stability and prosperity” facilitating “a free society enabling growth and development and allowing for a new legitimate and unified nation”, that “we seek no revenge; we seek no retribution in our country." Mr Nkomo’s said that the three-day period of prayers was meant to “dedicate our country to God and seek his guidance as we create a new Zimbabwe where we live together, tolerant of each other”, Mr. Mutambara advocated “rehabilitation, restoration of those individuals and communities who have been victimized by ourselves as a society and as a country." President Mugabe’s speech centred on the notion of “forgiveness” and he spoke of “promoting the values and practice of tolerance, respect, non-violence and dialogue as a sustainable means of resolving political differences." He also emphasised that it is the “bond of unity” and the creation of a “great oneness” that this process seeks to establish as being “the basis on which we can resist external interference in order to protect ourselves from those external institutions and interests which always look for opportunities to divide and tear us apart as a people."

    There was however very little mention of justice, truth and reparations as a prerequisite of healing. Nor was there any mention of personal responsibility for the violence of the past or personal commitment to ensure party followers ceased present or future violence.

    The exception was in Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s speech, in which he warned against just talking about healing and not really facing up to what had happened and the violent which is still on-going. He mentioned a young woman who had just been admitted to hospital suffering from a brutal assault because of her political affiliation. He mentioned the need for justice, truth and restitution as precursors to healing. He also mourned that “Zimbabwe has suffered so many phases of trauma, upheaval and conflict that there must be agreement on defining the scope of the healing process,” highlighting that “We must look back resolutely to the pre-independence era, the post independence Matabeleland massacres and the more recent political violence that has torn at the fabric of our society.”

    Can there be peace without justice?

    While the Organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration professes to be founded upon the birth of a new mindset, pursuing peace, equality and freedom, the question is whether peace can really be achieved without justice. It is at this point that Mr. Mugabe’s and Mr. Tsvangirai’s interpretations of the initiative of National Healing seem to lack of common ground. Mr. Tsvangirai spoke out against a culture of impunity and of the necessity of justice: “There can be no truth without justice. And no justice without truth. National healing cannot occur without justice and justice must be done, as well as be seen to be done." “In addition to the three principles of truth, justice and forgiveness, we must openly discuss the issue of reparations”. He stressed that there is no room for a “cover-up of past wrongs”. "These three days of dedication must herald the beginning of a genuine, open and frank process that includes and incorporates the concept of transitional justice, truth and accepting responsibility for the hurt and pain inflicted upon so many Zimbabweans." It is indisputable that achieving justice hinges on obtaining a level of truth, confronting the problems of the past, upholding the rule of law and respecting the rights of every Zimbabwean. Indeed, Mr. Tsvangirai said, without doing so, “as a nation we cannot hope to promote equality, national healing, cohesion and unity”.

    It remains to be seen whether Mr Tsvangirai’s interpretation or the President’s will be predominate in the work of the Organ.

    Some Civil Society Responses to the Launch of the National Days of Dedication

    The Youth Forum Information and Publicity maintains that “transitional justice should precede national healing; as long as perpetrators of violence remain free the process of national healing will not be taken seriously.” It considers both perpetrators and victims as victims, since “they were all abused by politicians” and thus “both need rehabilitation.” The Forum emphasises that the “perpetrators must show their remorse by telling the truth concerning who assigned them the diabolic roles which they carried out.” It insists that “those who initiated violence should then be tried before the courts and obtain the deserved judgments.”

    Prior to the National Dedication, the Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism (Cluster on National Healing), comprising some of the leading NGOs in the country, had made its position clear, distancing itself from the official process of National Healing. They declared that it would not support the Government’s initiative for fear of legitimizing a “dangerously flawed process.” Their statement emphasised that “any attempt at national healing, reconciliation and integration in the current socio-political context of ongoing state-sponsored politically motivated violence, continued human rights abuses, selective and targeted prosecutions and a biased state-controlled media, will not achieve the desired goal of holistic and sustainable peace and development.”

    Restoration of Human Rights statement affirms that “peace can never be wished into existence by mere words and public relations stunts as the Organ on National healing, Reconciliation and Integration would have the nation believe.” “The stark reality is that peace will remain elusive in Zimbabwe as long as the political parties are only prepared to condemn violence … yet leave institutions and infrastructures of violence in position for further instructions.” “For peace to prevail in any given nation, the state should be totally transformed into a safe house for every individual. The powers of the state to carry extra-legal mandates such as militia and para-militia activities against its people should end.” “Without taking concrete steps towards restoring the rule of law, disbanding militia camps, and other recommendations stated above, the call for observing three days to ‘celebrate Zimbabwe’s newfound peace and unity’ remains what it really is – a bluff!”

    A journalist’s comment : “The Harare event, a prayer meeting for peace to promote "national healing", took place in the Rainbow Towers, the Zimbabwean capital's most prominent luxury hotel, and guests enjoyed a sumptuous buffet of beef cooked in various ways, chicken, and imported vegetables, along with highly decorated desserts. Most Zimbabweans, though, remain deeply impoverished five months after the coalition was formed.”

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