‘Economy threat to transitional justice’

BY EVERSON MUSHAVA

THE deteriorating political and economic climate in Zimbabwe, coupled with the manipulation of the judiciary through constitutional amendments and selective prosecutions are creating a difficult environment for justice in Zimbabwe, an expert has said.

Addressing a third edition of the reparations dialogue organised by the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) recently, the lobby group’s reparations and rehabilitation thematic group leader Frances Lovemore said worsening economic and political challenges were threatening the work of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).

“The risk of developing partisan and exclusionary processes still remains extremely high, until there is genuine political dialogue, any definitive reparation process runs the risk of increasing rather than eliminating the conflict,” Lovemore said.

She was deliberating on the topic, Zimbabwe’s Official and Non-official Experience on Reparations and Rehabilitation.

Zimbabwe has a long history of conflict and violence dating back to the colonial era, with the most prominent being Gukurahundi during which 20 000 people in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions were killed between 1983 and 1987 according to human rights groups.

Failure by government to acknowledge human rights abuses and protect citizens from violence has created a legacy of festering wounds, thereby impeding on safe reparation programmes in the country, Lovemore noted.

Millions of victims of violence in Zimbabwe have been denied access to the truth and reparation process, a situation that resulted in the formation of NTJWG six years ago to lobby for transitional justice, she said.

“The line between victimhood and perpetration is very easy line to cross where impunity prevails, and this is an issue with the State commission (NPRC) should be continually seized with, particularly in the current rapidly deteriorating economic situation, diminished resources and delayed justice.”

Lovemore said the impunity associated with violence against citizens in a country not in an armed conflict has enabled the vicious cycle to continue and escalate regularly when power and access to resources such as land and minerals are threatened.

She said the failure by government to manage genuine reconciliation has diminished citizens’ trust in electoral and civil processes with fear and intimidation remaining tools of repression by the State and non-State actors.

According to NTJWG, physical violence perpetrated against the civilian population by both State and proxies supported by the State structures has encompassed systematic extra-judicial killings of up to 10 000 people, enforced disappearances, abductions of over 7 000 people and organised torture and violence against tens of thousands of people both rural and urban.

Land conflict, Lovemore said, and political conflict as well as mineral resources conflict and access to economic projects have resulted in the precipitation of physical violence often with lethal consequences.

A national programme on reparations, Lovemore said, must be victims-centred to ensure that the victims of State-sponsored and organised violence receive psycho-social support for a good national mental health.

She said to facilitate a real reparation process the use of militia and vigilante behaviour should be outlawed, a genuine political settlement and depolarisation with removal of political competition executed in the legal system and a genuine return to the rule of law with regard to deployment of the security sector in protecting both national and sub-national political power.

The dialogue was also attended by top Columbian reparations expert, Paula Gaviria, who shared the Colombian experience and how Zimbabwe could benefit from it.

Gaviria served as the director of Colombia’s Reparations Programme in the Office of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2012 and managed to conduct what scholars have described as the world’s biggest reparation programme under her tenure.

She said Zimbabwe should adopt a victim-centred approach that is all inclusive.

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