AFTER a history of violence our society requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders to map out the best way to democratise the country and build a platform for sustainable peace.
Questions are being raised with regards to how best our nation can be healed and it is my view that the nation has to come together and deliberate on these issues.
In order to promote justice, peace and reconciliation, government and NGOs should consider both judicial and non-judicial responses to violations of human rights that occurred in past years.
Such responses could include prosecuting individual perpetrators, offering reparations to victims of state sponsored violence, establishing truth-seeking initiatives about past abuses, reforming institutions like the police and the courts and also removing perpetrators from positions of power.
It cannot be overemphasised that transitional justice is essential for any society emerging from an abusive and repressive past to a democratic country imbued with principles that guarantee the respect of human rights. Surely victims and survivors need to know the truth as a means of bringing closure to their suffering.
The Oxford-based historian, Timothy Garton Ashe, once stated that while victims are cursed by a good memory, perpetrators are blessed by an ability to forget.
Thus the failure by government to acknowledge the horrendous human rights violations it visited upon the Ndebele people in the early 1980s has increased the tensions and rifts in our society.
To date many people in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces still lament that the Zanu PF government has not shown sincere penance.
Justice demands that perpetrators be brought to account for their heinous misdeeds in order to bring closure to the past and as a deterrent that is needed to avoid the repeat of such events. Prosecution of those who violate peopleâ€™s rights with impunity is a minimum ingredient for the rule of law and an essential requirement for the protection of human rights.
It is important that our country is given the opportunity to lay a firm and durable foundation for respecting human rights.
The new Constitution must be born out of this process and must provide a bridge between the past of a deeply divided society, characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all Zimbabweans regardless of political affiliation.
South Africa is a classic example of a country that used a similar golden opportunity to start a smooth transition from the apartheid regime to a constitutional democracy that is obtaining today in that country. As a logical corollary, the lessons learnt from South Africa must also guide and inform us in our Constitution-making process, also taking into account our own national values and ethos.
The pursuit of national unity, the wellbeing of all Zimbabweans and durable peace require reconciliation amongst the people and reconstruction of society, which has been damaged by the repressive and oppressive environment of past years.
But such reconciliation can only be attained not by sweeping the past atrocious history under the carpet as a mere aberration, but by pursuing various profound processes of transitional justice.
Undeniably, the adoption of a people driven constitution (the content of which must be agreed upon by all citizens) lays the secure foundation for all the people of Zimbabwe to transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.
These challenges should now be addressed on the basis that there is need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation and not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu and not for tyrannical victimisation.
This invariably is a delicate process which essentially means that the Constitution as a supreme national document founded on the will and aspirations of Zimbabweans seeking to close a sad chapter and opening a new chapter in the history of our nation.
It must be imbued with the values, principles and aspirations that identify with Zimbabweans in accordance with international human rights norms. It is against this background then that Zimbabweans can enjoy durable peace established by the rule of law and supported by strong accountability systems.
Each and every one of us, individually and institutionally, has a responsibility therefore to establish processes for consensus building and to facilitate transitional justice and reconciliation in our nation that has been (and still is) extremely polarised and antagonised on political and ethnic lines, to the detriment of international human rights norms and standards.
In this we firmly believe that a prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe, where all people across the political divide and from different ethnic backgrounds can live peacefully and in harmony with each other, can be realised if the current transitional process is handled competently.
Innocent Mawire (iÂÂ_mawire@yahoo.com) writes for the Peace and Justice Support Forum.
BY INNOCENT MAWIRE