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  • Residents' concept of national healing and reconciliation
    Harare Residents Trust (HRT)
    May 26, 2010

    A. Executive summary

    Operation Murambatsvina:

    The residents' movement in Zimbabwe has faced numerous challenges in recent years. The most significant hardship that residents experienced without justice was the Operation Murambatsvina in May 2005. Thousands of residents in Harare were left stranded without shelter, without any source of livelihood after their houses and market places were demolished under extremely intolerant circumstances. The then government reasoned that demolishing the houses and markets was to end illegal activities in the so-called shacks.

    Women and children were the hardest hit. This exercise was carried out in the middle of winter when it is cold. One way or the other every citizen was affected in several ways by the Murambatsvina wave. Property and livelihood was lost. Several people were injured. Armed riot police were out in full force enforcing the directive of senior officials in the previous government, ably assisted by the illegal commission then running the affairs of the City of Harare. The residents of Harare have not forgiven, let alone forgotten the horrors they experienced at the hands of the State police. HIV/Aids patients on anti-retro-viral treatment were displaced and wandered without taking their treatment.

    Today the memories of that period invoke hatred and bitterness among the citizenry who still do not know why this destruction occurred in the first place, and who initiated it. As long as there is no information about the real motives of the criminals who sanctioned that cruelty on innocent people and the identity of the officials who hatched the exercise, Zimbabweans, particularly Harare residents, will remain bitter. Citizens were misled into forming housing cooperatives to build homes in such areas like Kambuzuma and just outside Tafara. The irony of it all is that then Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing now the Minister of Local Government Rural and Urban Development officiated at the official opening of these housing cooperatives and encouraged people to build houses before any servicing of the land was undertaken. Then people paid thousands of dollars into buying building materials.

    Then Government came up with Operation Garikayi/ Hlalani Kuhle, which was supposed to provide the victims of urambatsvina with houses at Hopley Farm, Hatcliffe and Whitecliff. Instead of prioritising the affected citizens, beneficiaries of this appeasement housing initiative were mostly drawn from the military, the police, other civil servants, and known party activists belonging to the former ruling party. These areas are not freely accessible. Citizens in those areas live in constant fear and victimisation.

    Intolerance to political diversity:

    The period after the delayed release of the Presidential Election results in the March 2008 Harmonised Elections should rank as one of the worst periods for Zimbabwean citizens in living memory. The country turned into a war zone. The high-density areas were turned into hot spots for citizens whose movements were now restricted to their homes. Those actively involved in opposition politics were haunted out of their homes and terrorised by youth militia manning bases in council offices and party offices. Most were tortured and forced to confess to the 'sin' of supporting another party not Zanu PF. Friends and colleagues across Harare were screened on State-controlled television denouncing their parties in favour of President Mugabe, in return for their security and safety.

    It should be noted here that Zimbabweans have previously experienced inter-political violence; in 1990 when the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) contested the presidential and parliamentary elections, the period preceding the June 2000 Parliamentary Election when then united Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) contested elections in Zimbabwe for the first time, and the horrors that were visited upon the citizens of Matabeleland and the Midlands in a tribal cleansing, codenamed Gukurahundi in the 1980s leading to the 1987 Unity Accord.

    These memories should provide the national political leadership with valuable lessons on how to co-exist in peace with each other in the full realisation and enjoyment of our hard-won independence. As long as citizens live in constant fear of being arrested, illegally detained or assaulted for their political beliefs, the nation will remain unhealed.

    A lot happened and many citizens have experiences that have left them bitter and vulnerable to this day. The Harare Residents' Trust (HRT) believes that it is pertinent to raise these issues and reflect before taking any other step.

    B. Recommendations:

    i. Acceptance of Responsibility

    For national healing and subsequent reconciliation to take effect in Zimbabwe, there has to be acceptance of responsibility by whoever took part in acts that inflicted pain on the citizenry. The past atrocities against the citizens cannot be forgotten by time but by real action on the part of the perpetrators. Public confessions by those responsible in community halls should mark the beginning of a national healing process. An accurate history of the experiences of people has to be written and recorded as a learning tool.

    ii. Restorative Justice

    Victims of past atrocities have to be certain that the culture of impunity is ended with legal certainty in Zimbabwe. Those who authorised the perpetration of human rights violations and those who accepted the orders to inflict pain on other citizens, be brought before the courts of law to answer to their actions. After the legal prosecutions have taken place, then the civil route has to be followed to ensure that those who lost their property and livelihoods receive some significant compensation from the perpetrators. Money and properties cannot resurrect the dead. Neither can they restore people's freedoms and limbs that were broken by hooligans and other political perverts. But this will significantly reduce the bitterness among the citizens, and will help mend relations across the political divide. The objective of this route is to inflict deterrent punishment on those who deprived other people of their full human rights in the name of political orders.

    iii. Reconciliation:

    Our belief as the residents' movement is that there will not be reconciliation without justice. In order to be reconciled as a nation, there should be guarantees that the rule of law will be applied, that the judicial orders and decisions are respected and upheld. The history of impunity has undermined the citizens' confidence in the judiciary and the police. This has to be seriously addressed and justice must be seen to be done.

    B. Conclusion

    The conclusion of this important phase in the realisation of long-term peace in Zimbabwe, will bring with it measurable economic growth, deepening of governance and the entrenchment of the rule of law. The Harare Residents' Trust believes that once the citizenry have confidence in the governance of the country, there are other accruing benefits to be realised, like increased foreign direct investment, credibility of Zimbabwe as nation is enhanced and there would endurable peace that transcends partisan interests.

    For details and comments please contact the Harare Residents' Trust (HRT) on +263 912 869 294, +263 733 296 806 or email us on

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