There is a need for a victim-oriented truth, justice and reconciliation commission dating back to 1965 so that Zimbabwe can address the roots of human rights problems haunting the country, in the post-independence era, MDC-M has said.
The party’s secretary for legal affairs David Coltart said the 1982-1987 Gukurahundi genocide and other post-independence human rights violations should not be looked at in isolation as there was a history dating back to Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965.
“Our emphasis is on that process of getting the truth. How far should we go to get the truth? I believe we should get back to 1965. You cannot look at Gukurahundi in isolation. What happened in the 1970s explains what happened in the 1980s,” he said.
Coltart said when the rebel Rhodesian Prime Minister declared independence from Britain, he sowed seeds of violence through which a number of people suffered human rights abuses.
“The Rhodesian army committed human rights abuses along with guerillas. Victims suffered at the hands of Zanla, Zipra and the Rhodesians. Going back and hearing from the victims what happened plays a big role in the process.
“We should go back to 1965 because it was the date of illegality. When Smith declared the UDI, he sparked the violence. If we are being honest and objective, that’s when it (the commission) should start. I have always said Rhodesians got away with murder because we did not set up a commission after independence,” he said.
In the euphoria of independence in 1980, the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe did not institute a commission into the Rhodesian era’s human rights violations electing, in what has become one of Africa’s few miracles, to, “turn guns into ploughshares”.
In contrast, while South Africa’s Nelson Mandela preached reconciliation, he instituted a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that caught some of the country’s liberation movement heroes and heroines offside. Coltart said in Zimbabwe it would be pointless to go beyond 1965 because both the victims and the perpetrators of that time are dead.
“Our position is the position of the united MDC that was agreed on in December 2004. We have not changed from that. Our party’s position on Gukurahundi is very clear. We need a truth, justice and reconciliation process. That is a long-term plan. We need a victim-oriented commission.
“There has been change in terms of the MDC-T. The MDC-T, according to page 37 of its 2008 election manifesto, talks of truth and justice. We want a victim-oriented truth and justice commission. It should not be up to any politician to determine what happened and what should happen. People who are victims should be allowed to say what happened to them. It is for victims to tell politicians what should happen. MDC-T talks of amnesty, and I think that is premature. Victims may want amnesty, but it’s not for politicians to say it,” he said.
Coltart said his party was aware it was small within the matrix of Zimbabwean politics but it took its role in balancing the country’s political equation seriously.
“We are not one of the large political parties. We are not naïve. We are not under any illusion. But we have an important role that we play. We would never have arrived at the Global Political Agreement (GPA) if it was not the role that (Welshman) Ncube and (Priscilla) Misihairabwi-Mushonga played.
The MDC-M’s Ncube, and Misihairabwi- Mushonga, were the party’s negotiators during the talks that led to the signing of the GPA in September 2008.