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Transitional justice vital in Zim

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Several thousands of people in the country have travelled the rough road of gross human rights abuses emanating from organised violence and torture in Zimbabwe during different historical periods.

Report by Obey Manayiti, Staff Reporter

The injustices could be traced to the pre-independence era as well as the post-independence period. In post-independent Zimbabwe, Gukurahundi massacres by the North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces, stick out like a sore thumb.

The massacres, documented in a Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace report, claimed over20 000 lives.

Since the formation of the MDC in 1999, several of its supporters have been subjected to politically motivated violence, allegedly by Zanu-PF supporters and security details. In the build-up to 2008 elections, thousands of people were displaced, especially in rural areas, as the demon of violence reared its ugly head.

Little, however, has been done to bring perpetrators of the violence to book and hold them accountable for their criminal actions. In some cases, known perpetrators have enjoy State protection.

It is against such background that the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has called for the implementation of transitional justice in the country.

This is something that other stakeholders, including the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, have stressed needed to be carried out to ensure healing in the country, which continues to bear the festering wounds of political and extra-judicial violence.

Speaking at an International Conference on Transitional Justice held recently and attended by people from all walks of life including the Defence and Home Affairs ministry and the Judiciary, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Abel Chikomo said the country should learn from other countries that implemented transitional justice to bury differences.

“We hope to enable Zimbabwean decision-makers to learn from the experiences of other country strategies of how to address socio-political and transitional justice issues in a holistic manner.

“We hope also to enable stakeholders from a cross-section of the Zimbabwean community to define the way forward for transitional justice in Zimbabwe,” said Chikomo.

Transitional justice has been defined as the full set of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to secure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.

The conference was attended by representatives from Rwanda, Uganda, Germany, Philippines, Kenya and Liberia who shared notes on how such processes were effected in their own countries and produced enduring results.

Participants at the conference called upon the removal of immunity on perpetrators, admissions of crime and public apologies, prosecution of perpetrators and reparations for victims.

They said this would be the  only way forward for the nation to put behind the shameful and horrible atrocities experienced in Zimbabwe.

Co-Minister of State for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Sekai Holland, said the organ was working towards establishing a special arm that would deal with transitional justice.

“We propose the establishment of an independent operational institution to be called the National Peace and Reconciliation Council (NPRC) where reconciliation is inclusive of healing and reparations and peace suggests negotiated settlement of disputes and prevention of future violence,” said Holland.

She added that NPRC will be legally binding. She said there was need for perpetrators to come forward and apologise.

“We have to break the cycle of political violence during elections. We need to create a culture of peace and make politics pleasurable,” she said.

“We will use proceeds from Chiadzwa to establish a revolving fund that will be used to compensate victims of violence. We will also wish to eradicate poverty and put some initiatives which will empower people, especially the youth, so that they will not be influenced into engaging in violence.”

MDC-T secretary for policy research Eddie Cross said his party fully supported transitional justice as a way of repairing the damage and preparing the future but before the process kicked off, there was need to learn to live together and manage diversity.

He said the process will be difficult for Zimbabwe though possible because it is going to be negotiated and the perpetrators and victims have to agree on the process. He said the victims should be compensated.

“We have to compensate the people for whatever they lost. This is going to be costly and we will need domestic and international resources for this. The money looted from Chiadzwa should be recovered to finance reparations,” he said.

President Robert Mugabe has of late been preaching the gospel of peace and tolerance of divergent political opinions.

 

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