Comment: Justice Now

IT couldn’t be clearer. “Each party will take all measures necessary to ensure that the structures and institutions it controls are not engaged in the perpetration of violence,” the Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 21 last year states unequivocally.


“The parties are committed to ensuring that the law is applied fairly and justly to all persons irrespective of political affiliation,” it says. “The parties will take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of political violence, including by non-state actors, and to ensure the security of persons and property.

“The parties shall refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or undermine each other,” the MoU states.

The subsequent agreement between the parties signed with much fanfare on September 15 called for steps to be taken to ensure that “the public media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties”.

None of that is happening right now. In fact the opposite is the case. The public media is actively inciting hatred towards the opposition in general and Morgan Tsvangirai in particular. Daily it spews a toxic lava of hatred fatuously claiming the MDC-T leader is a puppet of the West.

Zimbabwe’s courts have heard of abductions, torture and point-blank refusal by the authorities to release illegally detained political prisoners. Court orders have been routinely ignored.

Then Sadc can’t understand why the MDC-T is reluctant to join a regime responsible for these egregious human rights abuses. Indeed, the failure by Sadc to condemn these breaches of solemn undertakings by Zimbabwe’s rulers makes the regional body complicit in the lawlessness now plaguing the land.

One of the key points raised by the MDC-T in its submission to the Sadc summit in Pretoria on Monday was the persistent breaches being made of the MoU of last July and the Global Political Agreement of September. The government claims it cannot entertain new issues.

But it cannot expect to impose persistent depredations upon the country under the pretence of imposing law and order and then insist that its victims join a unity government.

That is coercion of the worst sort.

The governments of South Africa and Botswana have made it clear that they regard claims of militia training as political gimmicks. That is a view shared by most Zimbabweans. But these gimmicks have a sinister dimension.

A healthy judicial system would cast a sceptical eye upon such claims by the state.

But our courts seem reluctant to uphold the right to presumption of innocence in the absence of serious charges. Sadc, whatever its other shortcomings, has over a two-year period declined to entertain Zanu PF’s “dossiers” cataloguing fictional violence organised by the MDC. But victims of these charges remain incarcerated.

The release of political prisoners is therefore an understandable precondition for any move by the MDC-T to join a unity government. Why should the opposition be expected to partner a regime that cruelly seizes and assaults its members?

Television stations around the world have run footage of interviews with victims of systematic violence while in detention.

Only in Zimbabwe, where despite the MoU’s call for “fair coverage” of current events, have the public been denied the right to hear the claims of victims of physical abuse, some of their testimony a matter of record in open court.

State Security minister Didymus Mutasa has in a court affidavit acknowledged the state’s role in the abductions but declined to disclose the names of the agents responsible. This is self-evidently not a government the MDC-T should be joining until the rule of law is restored.

Tsvangirai, we note, has said his party remains committed to the global agreement of September 15. But it will not join the new government until certain issues have been resolved.

That is the correct stance. The country is in desperate need of a political settlement so it can undergo recovery. It will only enjoy such a recovery if the international community is prepared to step in with material assistance.

It certainly won’t do that if the rule of law is openly flouted and innocent people are arbitrarily detained in deplorable conditions simply because they oppose the ruling party.

Let’s hope the MDC-T national council that meets today will spell out the issues at stake. We may need a settlement. But we also need justice. Zimbabweans in their hundreds of thousands want to come home to a prosperous and stable nation where their rights are upheld.

Governments around the world are standing by with billions of US dollars to aid recovery. But none of this will happen so long as people like Jestina Mukoko are subject to cruel and relentless punishment. We cannot have a unity government in a situation where people are tortured just because they voted for a party of their choice.

Zimbabwe needs peace and healing, not thuggery dressed up as order. Does Zanu PF understand that? It doesn’t seem so.

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