Address the question of missing victims of political violence

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editorial comment

YESTERDAY, we published an opinion written by Keith Silika, a very insightful piece about how we have made violence intrinsic to everyday life in Zimbabwe. Silika is a former officer in the Zimbabwe Republic Police who later joined the police in the United Kingdom.

His experiences and research give an insight into the mind of the people who train our officers who are supposed to maintain law and order on our streets. His article also exposes the lack of a conscience and empathy that we witness from those entrusted with safeguarding our laws.

“The police trainers would subject recruits like me to various forms of torture, including water boarding and battering the soles of our feet with rifle butts and sticks,” he writes.

“There were other ‘endurance exercises’ that went way over the top. For example, recruits would be ordered to lie down and forced to roll over repeatedly until we were dizzy and throwing up. Apparently, this was done to strengthen us — both physically and mentally — and to get rid of ‘civilian weaknesses’, as one trainer put it.”

That is positively frightening but also answers the question about the violent conduct by our ‘civilian’ police when they have to deal with members of the public. It explains the indiscriminate assaults, devoid of any human feeling or conscience.

Silika opines that in the last 50 years, five main conflicts have taken place in Zimbabwe: the liberation war (1966-1979), political violence (1980-present day), Gukurahundi (1981-1987), the violent farm invasions at the start of this millennium and the Marange diamond massacre.

Hundreds of thousands of people who were caught up in these conflicts have been killed or are missing with the State unwilling to deal with the matter.

“The sheer scale of the killing was shocking — so were the methods of torture. Some burial locations seemed to be selected at random, some were opportunistic interment while others took forethought and planning. The burial methods were dependent on which arm of the State had done the killing and when,” Silika says.

Of course, there are efforts to cover up the misdeeds and to absolve government and its arms from responsibility and to hide their hand in the heinous killings.

“I discovered — mainly through witness testimony — that the Fallen Heroes Trust (FHT), which is aligned to the Zanu PF government, has been on the forefront of dubious exhumation and identification practises since the early 1980s. It used approaches which made it almost impossible to find anyone accountable for the deaths.”
Some of the Chibondo bodies were wearing contemporary clothing which did not exist during the liberation war and it is highly likely that these bodies are the remains of supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) cadres, he says.

Government cannot wish away its dirty deeds, past and present. If the Second Republic is serious about clearing its slate and take this country forward, it needs to make peace with the past. The dead and missing are crying out, and those in authority must answer.