BY EVANS MATHANDA Zimbabwe is a damaged country that requires healing in order to rebuild the economy and ensure political tolerance ahead of next year’s harmonised elections.
Political disputes have eroded the spirit of ubuntu with hate speech becoming the norm, particularly on social media.
National healing is a topic that has been discussed for several years, and many people have contributed ideas on what they believe is required to achieve it.
But, as a country, have we reached a true consensus on how to improve our political environment and what national healing entails?
When it comes to national healing in Zimbabwe, the focus must be on the political and social causes of injury and pain, whether they affect individuals, or communities.
The Global Political Agreement that led to the formation of a government of national unity in 2009 recognised the importance of national healing and there is a need to draw lessons from that historic document to achieve peace.
Political parties should pledge, among other things, to treat all people equally, regardless of their political convictions. Political leaders must come together to establish an environment that allows them to appropriately advise on what steps are essential and feasible to accomplish national reconciliation.
To begin the process of national healing, our political leaders, government institutions and policymakers, and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission must first develop policies that acknowledge that certain areas of our country have been subjected to state-sponsored political violence.
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Acknowledgement is not only morally right, but it is also crucial for political leaders in terms of their political, community, and personal reputations.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa stated in 2018 that Zimbabweans should band together to restore the economy and leave the electoral processes behind them after six people were murdered when the army intervened to quell post-election protests.
In his first national address after being declared winner in a disputed presidential vote, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had shown the world it could hold a free and peaceful election but blamed the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Alliance) for the violence that followed.
The elections on July 30, 2018, the first since Robert Mugabe was forced to retire following a coup in November, was billed as a watershed vote that could have reintegrated a pariah state into the international community and sparked an economic resurgence.
However, the violence that erupted after Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party won the national elections, as well as the heavy-handed army response, served as another reminder that Zimbabwean society is still deeply divided, even after Mugabe’s nearly four-decade dictatorship ended.
Before we talk about economic revival, it’s clear that we need to heal and reconcile.
Activists and innocent women are kidnapped and murdered as a result of political intolerance, but victims and survivors have a hard time getting justice because the authorities keep offering conflicting accounts to protect the criminals.
The country is currently gripped by the story of Moreblesing Ali, a Citizens Coalition for Change activist, who was last month abducted by suspected Zanu PF members and her mutilated body was discovered in a well in Nyatsime area two weeks later.
It’s still unclear if her brutal murder was motivated by politics or domestic violence.
Regardless, Moreblessing’s family urged the police to quickly apprehend his alleged killers.
Pius Jamba, the key suspect in Moreblessing’s murder, was arrested last week.
In terms of potential criminal responsibility, several cases from throughout the world illustrate that those in positions of power risk being complicit in criminal behaviour if they do nothing in the face of clear evidence of state-sponsored violence or, worse, actively seek to conceal such information.
Peace building should not be the responsibility of political leaders; it should be a collaborative effort involving religious leaders as well.
Zimbabwe politics continues to pose a threat to national peace and reconciliation.
- Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity. For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19