Candid Comment: National Healing: Words not Enough

MILTON Mono, that doyen of gospel music in the late ‘70s, penned this song about joy, peace and love: “Let there be, joy in the land; let there be, peace with the people; let there be, love in our lives; from now on.”


I was reminded of this song during last weekend’s national healing commemorations, Zimbabwe’s new peace days which were celebrated over three days. The national peace days — meant for renouncing political violence and promoting national healing — are a creature the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, itself a creature brought into being by the principals to the Global Political Agreement.

National healing or peace is in essence a good idea. But is it enough to just say let us hold national healing commemorations?  If an injustice has been committed then the aggrieved persons can forgive.

But of immense importance is that the perpetrator of the injustice also needs to acknowledge the fact, and needs to apologise.

Can there be peace without justice? In Zimbabwe one is guilty unless proven innocent. How many MDC sympathisers have been killed, beaten, tortured, raped, and hounded from their homes by known assailants who are still roaming free to continue their heinous acts?

Can there be national healing before we can fairly address the plight of Zimbabwe’s white citizens whose property rights were breached by the land reform project?

Could this new Unity Days commemoration be a rather sneaky and cowardly way of trying to deflect any serious attempt at reaching national reconciliation through a genuine programme of holding perpetrators of the gravest crimes to justiciable account, and compensating those who have lost their lifetime possessions?

I am in total agreement with Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe when they say for peace to prevail in any given nation, the state should be totally transformed into a safe house for every individual.

The powers of the state to carry extra-legal mandates such as militia and para-militia activities against its people should end. The state should lead its citizenry and fulfil its duties under the spotlight of sacrosanct values, ideas and legal instruments that ensure that the Bill of Rights is elevated to a supreme position so it becomes the compass of how the populace and the state interact.

This has not happened in present day Zimbabwe, given the fact that the police, state intelligence and other arms of the executive are still carrying out extra-legal activities with impunity. The people of Zimbabwe’s safety remains severely endangered.

That we are coming from a dark age of reprisal and human rights violations and organised state acrimony on those holding dissenting views is undisputable. What is dismissive is an attempt by the present-day government to create symbolic days and moments in our country whereby the people, the region and the international world are misled into believing that the incumbent is whole-heartedly moving the country from the abyss of terror towards a glimpse of light and peace. 

Peace in its totality is a function of political will and maturity on those who are holding public office and the people of Zimbabwe at large believing that proper mechanisms of truth and reconciliation have been met.

Only after those who were aggrieved acknowledge that restorative measures have been done and those who have committed acts of terror acknowledge that they violated other people’s rights can peace as a concept be fully recognised.

President Mugabe cannot be the agitator of violence (remember: “We have degrees in violence” or “Let’s strike fear into the hearts of the white man…”) and define peace at the same time, as if he holds the rod of making the rules as he goes along. How much pain does he cause by his mere mention of peace without justice?

While we remain cognisant of the need for national healing, at the same time the concept of national healing should be holistic by mainly addressing the following fundamental issues:

 

  • The state should be separated from political parties, that is to say, Zanu PF should disband its infrastructure of violence and its proxies;
  • The uniformed forces should start to behave accordingly with the spirit and letter of co-existence to ensure that lasting peace is equally attained;
  • The state broadcaster should desist from fanning hate speech and lies aimed at prejudicing the public against civil society organisations and other political parties apart from Zanu PF; 
  • The state should immediately cease harassing human rights and political detainees within and without the Zimbabwe prisons;
  • Zanu PF should demobilise and disarm the militia, the proxies of violence that are still active since the acrimonious epoch of political terror that claimed more than 200 lives and displaced thousands in 2008;
  • Known perpetrators of violence must face the law regardless of political affiliation and rank in society and;

Put differently, peace can never be wished into existence by mere words and public relations stunts as the Organ on National healing, Reconciliation and Integration would have the nation believe.

For as long as known murderers like Mwale and hundreds others walk free, the beast will remain in Zanu PF and there will be no healing in the land.

Let there be peace!

Thondhlana is editor-designate of the forthcoming NewsDay.

BY BARNABAS THONDHLANA

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