The meaning of healing


l Res-ti-tu-tion: the act of returning something lost or stolen to its owner, or of paying for damage.
l Re-pri-sal: an act of punishing others for harm done to oneself, especially of a political or military kind.
l Re-demp-tion: the act of making free from blame or bringing back into favour
l Ret-ri-bu-tion: severe, deserved punishment.
l Re-sto-ra-tive: something which brings back to a healthy condition or back to its original state.
l Re-dun-dant: not needed; more than is necessary.
You may wonder why anyone would think all the words (loosely) defined above should be part of any discussion on national healing and reconciliation.
It’s not because I opened my dictionary at “r” and stopped there! But oddly enough all these “r” words are relevant to Zimbabwe’s discourse on the matter.
Take for instance “redundant”. If you haven’t figured out why this is a key word, you might want to look at the number of people assigned with leading the task of bringing about reconciliation and healing among Zimbabweans.
You might then look at what they have achieved in the time that they have been operating. While doing so, you might also examine closely the kind of rhetoric produced by these individuals. You will soon realise why the word “redundant”, as defined above, is important, and where it needs to be applied.
Having dispensed with the unnecessary, we could then proceed to have a more useful conversation on the subject. The fact is that Zimbabwe has suffered politically-motivated violence and racist or tribalist human rights violations.
The memory of these violations is alive and unresolved among the people of Zimbabwe. The transitional inclusive government can at least be commended for acknowledging these simple facts by including a section (Article VII) on the “Promotion of Equality, National Healing, Cohesion and Unity” within the Global Political Agreement. This was an important first step.
However, the murmurs of discontent among Zimbabweans suggest a level of dissatisfaction with progress of the Organ for Healing and Reconciliation. People want to see at least a semblance of restorative justice carried out; where victims are given an active role in resolving disputes and offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions in order to “repair the harm they have done.” That would satisfy the requirement for redemption on the perpetrators’ part.
The victims of Zimbabwe’s violence are many and their needs are different, and expressed differently. Organisations such as Zimrights, Youth Forum, heads of Christian denominations, Victims Action Committee and Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe, among others are all attempting to give victims a voice. But what do the victims really want?
Debates around the subject reveal that many Zimbabweans believe that healing cannot be achieved without fostering dialogue between the offender and the victim, and that this will result in true accountability by the offender and a higher rate of satisfaction by the victim.
So clearly there is need for a national platform where victims can be heard.
The sticking point in discussions on healing and reconciliation often comes about because for many people the meaning of healing is inextricably tied to the return of what rightfully belonged to them or to their forefathers.
Essentially the land reform programme was an attempt to redress the imbalances created by colonialism and to right the wrongs committed against native people in terms of distribution of land.
Similarly we understand that the indigenisation programme is an attempt to give the indigenous people of Zimbabwe a stronger share in the distribution of wealth.
The sincerity or lack thereof in the implementation of these programmes is not the subject of our discussion today.
The important thing is to note the attempt at restitution.
Often the needs of victims do not end there; others want to see reprisal and retribution.
I faced an interesting dilemma recently when the question was posed: “But mummy I said sorry, so why do you still have to punish me?” And I can see in the puzzled expression on the little person’s face that she is thinking “So what was the point of saying sorry if you are still going to smack me?”
Perhaps the perpetrators of atrocities and violators of human rights have the same question. I still don’t know if there is a clear answer and what that answer is.
What is clear is that our leaders responsible for national healing and reconciliation have a mammoth task to perform, and while we’re asking questions, the burning one concerning them is: “Are they up to it?”
l Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity.