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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles
healing - Peace Watch 1/2012
September 03, 2012
This new series
of Peace Watch will provide some ideas which people can think about,
share and debate, on topics such as National Healing, Ubuntu [as
applied to the nation], Transition, National Cohesion and Unity,
Equality and Social Justice. All are prerequisites for moving forward
from a situation of divisiveness and conflict to
a united and peaceful nation.
The first issue
which will be examined will be that of National Healing. It is a
subject that has been talked about for several years and many individuals
and organisations have contributed towards what they think necessary
to achieve this. But have we had a real consensus on what is meant
by National Healing? Have we "unpacked" what is necessary
for it and do we know whether what has been done is working? The
duty of National Healing has been recognised at the political level,
but the question remains: was it a "look-good" token
recognition or was it a statement of intention?
of the Need for National Healing in the GPA
There was a
recognition of the need for National Healing in the Global
Political Agreement [GPA]. Although it was the three major parties
with seats in Parliament that put their signatures to the GPA, the
other parties, even though left out of the process would find it
difficult not to resonate with this:
7 OF THE GPA
OF EQUALITY, NATIONAL HEALING, COHESION AND UNITY
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
b) will ensure
equal and fair development of all regions of the country and in
particular to correct historical imbalances in the development of
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.
First we will
look at healing in its broadest sense. Healing literally means to
make whole. The Old English word from which it comes is in essence
the same as the Bantu word "ubuntu".
be physical, psychological, social and spiritual.
The word healing
- That there
has been the infliction of some sort of hurt, injury, pain, damage,
unbalance – whether this be physical, psychological, social
or spiritual or a combination of these. This infliction can be
the result of a sudden, quick traumatic event, violence or accident
– in which case it is often labelled trauma – such
as a rape, injury or loss of loved one in a fire. Or it can be
long drawn out such as the hurt inflicted to the dignity of black
people in years of colonialism, or the constant repetitious hurt
of an abusive relationship.
- That healing
involves some process of ‘repairing’, cure, restitution
– whether this be medical attention, psychological therapy
or counselling, spiritual healing, or compensation/restitution
to a family or whole community.
identifying injury and pain, stopping whatever is immediately causing
injury and pain, preventing the causes from restarting and repairing
the injury and pain [more on this below]
In the context
of talking about national healing in Zimbabwe, the focus is on political
and social causes of injury and pain, whether inflicted on individuals
or communities, and on various forms of political and social remedies
that will repair the individual or community and ultimately the
nation in all respects – physically, psychologically, socially
There are multiple
aspects of injury and pain, its causes, and options for remedies.
In the immediate context of Zimbabwe, the focus must be on state-sponsored
and political party activities – for the simple reason that
these are the single biggest cause of injury and pain. This focus
does not suggest that other forms of violence are not important
[such as criminal and domestic violence], but the goal here is to
stress the political responsibility for national healing.
injury and pain
whatever is immediately causing injury and pain
the causes from restarting
injury and pain.
A great deal
can be said about each of these steps in healing. But first a key
point needs to be emphasised – that healing cannot start while
more injury is being caused. Healing a burnt hand cannot start if
the hand is still in the fire.
The steps for
healing should be taken sequentially. Many might focus on the fourth
[repairing], but this would miss the obvious point that more injury
is still being caused. Counselling a woman who has been raped will
not do much good if she is raped again the following week. Healing
a divided community cannot start if one side is still beating the
For the short
term, we should concentrate on the first three in the sequence –
identifying the cause of the pain, stopping it continuing and preventing
it from recurring. [Each will be looked at in more detail] Only
when the nation has identified, admitted and stopped the immediate
and ongoing injury and pain and has taken steps to ensure it will
not recur, can society concentrate on the fourth stage, i.e. the
more common view of ‘healing’, summarised in the word
first three is not complicated, and visible progress would be dramatic
if it were done at a national level of political responsibility.
Individuals and civic organisations can and have done their bit,
but political and state organised violence and the healing of its
wounds require the involvement of political-party leadership and
government institutions and policy makers. But before anything effective
can be done, there has to be a first stage, at a political and governmental
level, of acknowledging the problem exists and the extent of the
problem, and of taking responsibility for the problem.
To even start
the process of nation-wide healing it first requires our political-party
leadership, government institutions and policy makers and the Organ
for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration [the "Organ"]
set up by government to face facts and publicly acknowledge that
sectors of our nation have been subjected to state-sponsored and
political violence. There should be no place for pretence and avoidance.
The saying "adding insult to injury" applies to the
brutality of the violence and suffering that has occurred and in
many areas of the country is still ongoing, but is not acknowledged.
Nor can the prospect of repetition of this suffering be evaded.
Already, as we approach the next elections, violence is escalating;
and, fear of a repeat of the killings and beatings, displacement
and destruction of property that occurred
in the 2008 elections is being expressed throughout the country.
is not only morally right, it is important for political leaders,
not only in terms of their potential legal liability, but also in
terms of their reputations in political, community and personal
terms. What will be the answers, if their grandchildren ask "what
did you do about the violence being carried out by the state or
your political party?"
As regards potential
criminal liability, many examples throughout the world show that
if people in positions of authority take no action in the face of
clear evidence of state-sponsored mass violence or, worse still,
find ways actively to hide such evidence, they risk being complicit
in criminal behaviour.
the evidence, refusing to do anything and obfuscating, carries great
risks to political parties, to the government as an institution
and for the individuals in it and to the Organ [again as an institution
and for the individuals in it]. If these institutions, both collectively
and as individuals, do not publicly and consistently state their
position on state and political violence, they run the risk of irreparable
damage to their reputations both now and in posterity. At the criminal
responsibility and liability end of the scale, denial, etc., is
effectively condoning and even authorising, the conduct in question.
makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take
legal responsibility for information supplied
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