OLD wounds of the Gukurahundi massacres and political violence since 2002 were re-opened during emotionally charged Parliament organised public meeting hearings on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill that ended last week.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) chairperson Alec Muchadehama said the emotions and tensions, which were exhibited during the hearings showed the anger building up in the homes of victims and survivors.
“Zimbabweans are a people of dialogue and are eager to speak out. If anyone has ever doubted that the NPRC is needed, the NPRC Bill public hearings have vanquished all those doubts. There is no bill in the history of Zimbabwe that has awakened this kind of attention,” said Muchadehama.
The hearings became a slanging match between victims of political violence who wanted perpetrators to be brought to book and be compensated on one hand, and the alleged culprits on the other hand wanting their heinous crimes swept under the carpet.
In Bindura’s Chipadze suburb, once a hotbed of political violence since 2002, members of the public were clear that anger was building up inside their homes and hearts and they would not forgive unless they were compensated.
Nicholas Midzi whose two sons Trymore and Moffat Chivaura were murdered in cold blood by Zanu PF youths, who had converted the community hall into a torture base, said it was impossible to reconcile and forgive those who traumatised him and his family to the point of killing his sons without compensation.
“I lost two sons Trymore and Moffat Chivaura, who were killed in this hall following instructions from Nicholas Goche. My home was taken and I was forced to leave employment as a police officer, yet you just want me to forgive without compensation,” he said.
Midzi’s house was also forcibly taken from him by Zanu PF youths, who turned it into a torture base before plundering his personal belongings.
Instead of contributing to the Bill, victims stood up one after the other to recount chilling horrors of violence, while accusing the ruling Zanu PF government of attempting to block proper reconciliation by usurping powers of an independent commission established in terms of the Constitution.
“The public hearings on the NPRC Bill became much more than just about the Bill, as participants went on to raise issues which would appropriately be meant for the Commission itself and that is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing because it confirms what we have always been saying,” Muchadehama added.
Christian Assembly’s Bishop Cephas Mafuruse, who has been coordinating independent truth and reconciliation workshops in Kwekwe, said the emotions showed that Zimbabweans had postponed a problem which needed to be dealt with.
“It is clear that people are still hurting inside because we have postponed a problem and that is a problem in itself because if you postpone a problem it has a way of coming out one way or the other and when it does, we may not be able to contain it,” he said.
Mafuruse said in his experience, forgiving can only happen when the truth has been told and the offending party has taken ownership of his mistakes and apologised.
“We have to face our own fears, this thing has to be done in an honest and truthful manner and perpetrators have to accept their role and apologise, look at how South Africa did it. It was painful but they did it,” he said.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs chairperson, Jessie Majome said she saw first-hand that the NPRC was not only long overdue but needed badly.
“If this is not done in a transparent and honest manner, this country is sitting on a potential explosive time bomb which could lead us into a very bad civil war, we need now more than ever to discuss these issues and find common ground.
“If this project does not happen, we will see instability in this country, the longer we delay as a nation and honestly and truthfully deal with these pains, we remain in danger as a nation,” she said.
In Bulawayo and Midlands people who witnessed Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980’s came to tears narrating their ordeal at the hands of the infamous North Korean-trained Five Brigade.
They spoke about totemless children born out of gang rape, while husbands and children watched soldiers sexually abusing their wives and mothers respectively, and demanded justice.
Zanu PF’s Damien Mumvuri, after chairing six public hearings in Masvingo, Mutare, Marondera, Bindura and Chinhoyi said he was more convinced now that the commission was needed.
“It shows that we are a nation not in peace with itself and people are hurting we, therefore, need the commission so that we can deal with these issues which are affecting us as a people,” he said.
During the Chinhoyi hearing that was eventually abandoned after Zanu PF supporters broke into song and dance calling on the Commission to be disbanded, Gift Konjana from Chegutu summed up the mood.
“The need to discuss peace and reconciliation in this country is more evident in this meeting because the high tensions show that we are a deeply divided people. I can also see a committee member here who is pushing an agenda and is fuelling tensions here by clapping and behaving as a kid while there are people who are disrupting the meeting,” he said.
Mafuruse warned against leaving politicians at the helm of the peace and reconciliation process, saying they tend to be defensive and emotional about the issues and, therefore, were not fit to lead.
“Reconciliation can never be a political issue and should not be led by political players because instead of being objective they react and use emotions in the pursuit of power and wealth reconciliation will thus be compromised,” he said.
It is undisputable that the victims of violence are seething with anger, anger directed at Zanu PF, the actual perpetrators and the police who failed to act, if not addressed one day these victims might become perpetrators as they search for vengeance.