MARCH 24 passed quietly, unnoticed in Zimbabwe last week.
Opinion with Jonathan Maphenduka
Dubbed as Zimbabwe’s Legacy of Unspoken Truth, this day is celebrated worldwide in memory of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated on March 24, 1980.
Romero was an unyielding champion of human rights and the day has been set aside to honour the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations, according to the National Transitional Justice Working Group Zimbawe (NTJWG).
March 24 has been celebrated under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly since December 21, 2010 when the body proclaimed the day as the International Day for the right to Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
In a full-page advert in a popular weekly, NTJWG gives an inspiring insight into what the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission can achieve.
It now emerges that there are 10 functions on which the reconciliation commission should focus its attention.
Among the areas on which the commission will focus attention is reparations to survivors and their rehabilitation.
It will be noted that this ingredient of reconciliation covers those who were affected by genocide in Matabeleland.
Another welcome feature of reconciliation that surprisingly widens the scope of the functions of the commission is the inclusion of human rights violations committed during the liberation war.
This feature of reconciliation dispels the erroneous school of thought in some quarters that the reconciliation exercise has been launched purely for the benefit of, and to appease, the victims of genocide in Matabeleland.
Perhaps, the only criticism that one can level against the government — and this should not be understood to mean the present government — is that it took too long to institute this national reconciliation programme.
It becomes clear, therefore, that a great deal of information will have been lost with the long passage of time to benefit those who were affected.
It is for this reason that the government of former President Robert Mugabe must be condemned for the delay.
The adage justice delayed is justice denied rings absolutely true in this regard.
The government, in launching the reconciliation programme, may not have been aware of the enormity of the programme.
It is also possible that the delay in instituting the programme was, by design, intended to defeat the very purpose for its institution today.
This must be regretted because the design to delay the launch may already have effectively defeated in no small measure the purpose for which it is now under way.
Many survivors will have passed on by now, resulting in the loss of vital information.
The public can be excused the feeling that the present government may design to frustrate the outcome of the current investigation.
One of the reasons why this possibility should not be allowed to happen is the publication of the findings of two previous reports contained in the Chihambakwe and the Dumbutshena Commissions.
Publication of the two commissions’ reports will save the government colossal sums of money and also dispel any public fears that it may not be sincere in its declared intentions.
The government must not be seen to be playing a political game, as this can cause untold harm, both to the government and the victims who stand to benefit from a successful programme.
As the NTJWG warns, the reconciliation programme must not become a fallacy.
Its success will have far-reaching benefits and help bring this country together for national good.
All must work together to ensure its success.
The government must, therefore, ensure that the programme is not set up for fail.
The government, however, has a tendency to start on a wrong footing in matters such as these.
There is fear, therefore, that the government may fail to invest adequate funds, leading to the curtailment of the work before the commission.
Authorities must do everything possible to ensure the work becomes an unqualified success.
It is now revealed that investigations will embrace, among others, traumatic events such as Operation Murambatsvina, politically-motivated assassinations and forced disappearances and abductions.
The list is frightfully endless.
Let me give just a few examples.
In 1982, following Joshua Nkomo’s expulsion from the government, six young tourists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia were abducted along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Highway.
They were frog-marched into the forest and were never seen alive again.
The government accused Zapu “dissidents” for the crime, while Nkomo accused the government of being responsible for their disappearance.
It is important this matter must be investigated further to establish the truth because the place where they were first buried is well-known and the villagers who led investigators live nearby.
There was Cain Nkala’s case, which resulted in a number of people being arrested but being released after a failed trial.
During an election campaign in Filabusi in 2005 or 2008, a young member of the MDC was shot in front of a police officer.
The young man still has a bullet lodged in his groin.
The matter, however, was covered up.
In the Itai Dzamara and Paul Chizuze cases, the government was reported to be working with the families of the two victims.
It will be interesting to learn what has been uncovered about their disappearances.
Is there a danger that those who are highlighting these cases may unwittingly be risking retribution?
This is the feeling that one gets when realising that many of those faceless persons who were responsible for these atrocities are still alive and may well decide to silence those who are recalling these facts.
Big Brother is watching you
It is such a sad thing that Zimbabwe spent nearly 40 years of independence living in a fool’s paradise, where the rule of law was viciously trampled down by the powerful.
We are now paying a heavy price for those years when we chose to do as we pleased in our own backyard.
But the world knows that those who supported tyranny for nearly 40 years, perpetually dancing the jig of fear in support of a leader who tolerated no dissent, did so because they were petrified with fear of a man who demanded absolute loyalty, and did not pull his punches away from those who disagreed with him.