FROM the liberation struggle to post-independent Zimbabwe, the country has witnessed rampant human rights violations that include killings, abductions, rape, arson, kidnappings, forced disappearances, and extra-legal and extra-judicial killings.
These issues have not been resolved and unless there is justice for those who suffered and continue to do so, the talks in South Africa will be a charade.
In this article, I want to examine two critical issues that in my view are not addressed by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Zanu PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change.
The first one is the failure to acknowledge the murderous nature of one of the parties to the negotiations and the abuses that Zimbabweans have suffered under President Robert Mugabe since he assumed office in 1980 and his disdain for citizensâ€™ civil and political liberties. Secondly I would also want to examine the disdain of the role of civic society and other small political parties that has been shown by the parties to the negotiations.
A society that is built on the injustices of the Midlands and Matabeleland massacres, the 2000 and 2002 parliamentary and presidential election abuses respectively, and the post-29 March violence against ordinary citizens for expressing opinions different from those of the ruling elite will not stand the test of time.
What is saddening is that the MoU signed by both formations of the MDC and Zanu PF which sets the framework for negotiations between these two political foes does not acknowledge that this country has suffered a lot of injustices under the leadership of President Mugabe. I am not saying that the MoU should not address the substantive issues to the talks but critical issues such as transitional justice matters should in my view be part of the negotiating framework.
The situation has been worsened by the fact that the international community, particularly Sadc and the African Union (AU) and most importantly the MDC and Zanu PF as well at the facilitator President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, have sought to dichotomise Zimbabweans as either belonging to the opposition or the ruling party.
In my view, any understanding or purported resolution of the crisis in the country that does not acknowledge and seek to deliver justice to those who lost their dear ones during the Midlands and Matabeleland disturbances will not be a legitimate outcome. This country cannot continue with business as usual while others including the victims of the post-Gukurahundi disturbances such as the post-Constitutional Referendum victims to date continue to wait for a justice that is eluding them by the day.
It is my contention that Zimbabwe cannot one day find itself as a democracy by covering up its past history, or by denying justice to victims of state-organised acts of injustices. In the same regard people who faced injustices under the present leadership of Zanu PF cannot be proud Zimbabweans when those who murdered their relatives continue to roam the streets, continue to run the affairs of the state and more so continue to abuse human rights.
In short, all Zimbabweans should feel safe and be treated equally before the law. This cannot happen when some people among the ruling elite think that they can maim and kill people without any recourse to justice. The cornerstone of any democratic and civilised nation is the respect for law and order and the prevalence of justice. There cannot be justice in Zimbabwe when the institutional framework is weak and when the political culture in the country lacks morality.
It is my argument that the crisis in Zimbabwe cannot be resolved by celebrating and rewarding impunity. The recent electoral sham has shown some of us that the people cited or accused of masterminding the Midlands and Matabeleland killings were at it again during the post-March 29 violence.
The political leadership in Zimbabwe, particularly President Mugabe and his group should simply appreciate that the country cannot continue to be ruled through fear and violence and that those who lost their loved ones deserve justice. One way of doing so is to accept responsibility by the top political leadership and engage the victims as the first step towards national healing. Denying and continuing to abuse human rights will not assist to resolve the crisis in the country.
Zimbabweans should appreciate that the struggle for power is not necessarily a struggle for democracy. Not all people who seek power are democratic. People seek power for different reasons including getting power to abuse it as Zanu PF has shown for the past three decades. This brings me to the tragedy that the current talks that involve only political parties face.
Why the search for the resolution of the national crisis is being limited to two political parties without the broadening of the negotiators to include other political parties and civic society organisations boggles the mind. It seems that in the limited view of the negotiators, Zimbabweans are either Zanu PF or MDC. Civil society organisations are not appendages to either Zanu PF or the MDC. Other political parties, no matter how small, while disagreeing with how Zanu PF is running the affairs of the state are not necessarily in agreement with the two formations of the MDC.
Those who are facilitating the talks are failing to understand that the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe requires national efforts by all stakeholders and that the outcome of the process should be acceptable to the majority of Zimbabweans not political parties and politicians alone.
Zimbabwe is not a country of politicians but of every citizen political or not. The settlement that should therefore come out of the negotiations should not satisfy Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara and their political parties but the generality of Zimbabweans. If it doesnâ€™t as I am sure it will not, then that pact will not stand the test of time and there is no need for Zimbabweans to accept a power sharing pact at the expense of building national consensus that will lead to the creation of the Zimbabwe that most citizens will be proud to be part of.
With all due respect, I find this demeaning, shallow, parochial and downright insulting to Zimbabweans.
While I understand Zanu PFâ€™s revulsion against civic societyâ€™s work on insisting on non-compliance as one way of creating a democratic society, I find it appalling that the two formations of the MDC for the second time around fail to insist that they cannot enter into negotiations that are discriminatory of other stakeholders that have played fundamental roles in the democratisation agenda for the past decade.
The two formations of the MDC, the AU and Sadc, as well as Zanu PF if it bothers to listen, should understand three critical roles that advocacy networks such as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, the National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Bulawayo Agenda and others play in the democratisation process in our country.
For the past decade, civil society organisations in the country have put the norm-violating regime of President Mugabe on the international agenda in terms of moral consciousness and awareness. This has led the international community and of late members of the AU and Sadc to condemn and refuse to do business with the Harare regime on the basis of human rights violations and the holding of bogus elections.
The world came to this position because of the advocacy work of civil society organisations. To then deny these groups a chance to be part of resolving the national crisis boggles the mind. It also exposes the two formations of the MDC as power-seekers who are not interested in the institutional, structural and governance changes in the country.
It strengthens worries that the two formations want to author the countryâ€™s constitution without involving the majority of the citizenry through a people-driven process.
The challenge now lies with civil society organisations. They must stand firm and refuse to endorse a pact by the elite to share power without dealing with the fundamental issues of institutional and governance renewal pinned on a democratic constitution crafted through a people-oriented process. Nothing more, nothing less.
Human rights scholars further argue that civic groups empower and legitimise the claims of domestic opposition groups such as the MDC against norm-violating governments like Mugabeâ€™s administration. Moreover civic groups also protect the physical integrity of opposition groups and activists from governmental repression.
This work has been done with integrity by organisations such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights among others. It is therefore important for the MDC formations to realise that civic society organisations have played crucial roles in mobilising domestic opposition, social movements and NGOs in targeted countries to speak against repression in Zimbabwe.
By Ruhanya who is a Human Rights Researcher at the University of Minnesota, USA.