PONDERING over the naÃ¯ve statements made by Sekai Holland and Gibson Sibanda, I could not help but consult the Holy Bible for natural law answers and indeed it came to my rescue, further reinforcing my personal views on how to deal with past atrocities and achieve societal healing in Zimbabwe.
Psalms 37 vs 30-31 says: â€œThe mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart, one of his steps shall slide.â€
The two people mentioned above made some rather sad comments prior to the days set aside for national healing.
Gibson Sibanda is quoted as having said that those calling for justice are hypocrites because they themselves benefited from Robert Mugabeâ€™s hand of reconciliation after independence. For starters, Sibanda hails from Matabeleland, a region that suffered some of the most egregious human rights violations in
Zimbabwe during the early 1980s.Thousands of innocent civilians were butchered and maimed by the 5th brigade in the name of fighting insurgency.
Twenty nine years down the line, not a single individual has been brought to account for those atrocities, neither has an official apology been issued by the Mugabe regime. Sibanda was instrumental in the formation of the MDC, becoming the interim president, thenÂ the partyâ€™sâ€™ deputy president to Morgan Tsvangirai at the inaugural congress in 1999.
Among the campaign issues of the MDC and its core founding values was the need for the return of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. I remember Prime Minister Tsvangirai visiting the sites of the massacres in 2001 and declaring that perpetrators should be brought to account. Fast forward to last week, Sibanda now a minister in a GNU unashamedly calls victims and those genuinely calling for justice hypocrites. How absurd!
Granting amnesties or running pseudo amnesties disguised as reconciliation and integration schemes are affront to statesâ€™ legal obligations arising from
international treaties, international human rights law and other international law obligations. It is against the rule of law and assaults the foundations and fabrics of a moral society.
The current process as adopted by the GNU is indeed an amnesty in disguise. It is one thing to have an organ tasked with national healing and reconciliation, and another thing to have a specific legal mandate to undertake it. What makes this process hollow is the absence of enabling legislation to deal with the various atrocities perpetrated. An act defining the process, the mechanisms, the institutions, the time threshold of the offences, the type of offences and jurisdictional issues and objectives is paramount to achieve societyâ€™s healing and for citizens to have faith in the process.
For in the specific act comes also the rights of the victims to compensation and reparations which are critical ingredients in achieving a just settlement. It also spells out the consequences for those who do not own up and makes explicit that such actions will never be condoned. Sadly our parliament has not seen it fit to debate this issue so far.
A complete failure to bring to book perpetrators vitiates the authority of the law itself. Prosecutions renew a societyâ€™s faith in the concept that the rule of law protects the inherent dignity of the individuals and strengthens belief that those who violate the rights of others will henceforth be held to account. A criminal justice process provides victims of abuse and their families and communities with a sense of justice and a catharsis, a
feeling that their grievances have been addressed.
A failure on the other hand leads to vigilante justice as already been seen in some parts of Zimbabwe where MDC supporters have been reported to have attacked their former perpetrators. Furthermore it fosters a distrust of the new government and encourages cynism towards the rule of law. There is enough compelling evidence, academic and legal opinion that to grant amnesties or any other processes short of real prosecutions to perpetrators of international crimes is in conflict with international law obligations.
On this note I will remind Sekai Holland on what she seems to have forgotten very fast. She is reported as having said â€œin the traditional African society, the concept of justice is different because it is all inclusiveâ€¦the environment has to promote the togetherness of the people so that together they can look for solutions to the problems without
discriminationsâ€. Holland may be oblivious to the fact that restorative justice concepts all over are renowned for their inclusiveness, not just in pre-colonial Zimbabwe.
There is no evidence that restorative justice on its own achieves reconciliation, integration and justice. Even in those daysÂ the chiefs would punish offenders by banishing them from the area, making them pay large head of cattle as compensation, including young women.
There was no amnesty. This is modern Zimbabwe now and political offenders should not be treated differently from other criminals. The chiefs have become part of the problems not the solution through their patronage to Zanu PF. Therefore, it remains the role of the state to prosecute those who commit crimes against the state, against the people.
It is only two years ago that Holland was at Avenues Clinic having been brutally attacked by state- sponsored militias and it is just less than a year since Godfrey Kauzani and Better Chokururama were murdered by Zanu PF thugs. I mention these two because Holland would know that these are the same youths who provided her with security and escort during her terror suffered at the hands of the so-styled Biggie Chitoro in Mberengwa during the 2000 elections. What message is the MDC sending to those who are still terrorising innocent civilians in Zimbabwe?
Makombe is a former MDC National Youth Coordinator and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
BY SANDERSON MAKOMBE