Rights groups, activists and even members of the coalition government admit that President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s union has failed to ease tensions since forming the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration 15 months ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe’s statements last week on Mugabe’s role in the 1980s Matabeleland ethnic killings provided one of the clearest examples of how the coalition government remained divided on issues of national healing and reconciliation.
Khupe told people attending an exhibition on the 1980s killings, also known as Gukurahundi, that the national healing process should not start until Mugabe and members of his previous government publicly acknowledged their roles in the army-led killing of civilians.
During the same week, Zanu PF supporters forced the abandonment of a national healing conference, showing signs of dissatisfaction with the programme.
Analysts say, unlike similar processes in countries such as South Africa and Rwanda, Zimbabwe’s programme lacked clear parameters.
“This is because most of those countries (such as Rwanda and South Africa) had to firstly go through a full transition before engaging with such processes,” Trevor Maisiri, director at African Reform Institute, a think-tank based in the Harare said.
Maisiri said a complete political transition would allow new leaders to commit themselves to fresh values of peace and tranquility, whereas perpetrators would seek to block any attempts at redress.
“We have not transitioned, though we have realised some marked reduction in violence. But we have not dismantled the attitudes, mechanisms and institutions of political violence yet. Violence has to stop first before we talk about healing, but currently it is on the rise again,” said Maisiri, who has published several papers on Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation.
Zimbabwe’s past is littered with state-sponsored ethnic conflict, racial discrimination and political violence which the principals in the coalition government said they would address through the national healing organ jointly chaired by all three parties in government.
According to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which gave birth to the coalition government, the process should address pre-and post colonial conflict cases. Holland, one of the organ’s chairpersons, said these cases would date back 180 years ago, a feat her organ could find daunting. She told the Zimbabwe Independent that coalition government principals had no clue on how the process should work when they formed the organ, forcing questions on whether talk of national healing wasn’t mere political rhetoric.
John Kanokanga, the leader of Movement for Peace Reconciliation and Unity, a peace advocacy group, tussling for political power between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai meant national healing remained a peripheral issue.
“Zimbabwe is not yet ready for such a programme until the root cause of the problem is removed and the root cause of the problem is that the MDC wants to get into power at any cost; on the other hand Zanu PF is determined to retain power at any cost,” said Kanokanga.
“The GPA is like a cease-fire agreement but Zanu PF and MDC are still technically at war and as such there’s no healing to talk about.”
Kudakwashe Chitofiri, who teaches economic history at the University of Zimbabwe, said lack of political commitment meant ordinary people, who are supposed to benefit from the programme, would continue living tension-filled lives.
“The grassroots are the people who should benefit from the process and the problem we have in Zimbabwe is that we tend to window-dress issues or stage manage things and not address them conclusively,” he said.
An inclusive process, according to Maisiri, entailed instituting an independent commission inclusive of civil society, churches and other “progressive forces of our society”.
“The commission must be busy with community interventions to address the effects of political violence while also working with parliament, civil society, churches, the executive and the judiciary to ensure that there is a dismantling of any institutions, attitudes and mechanism of violence,” said Maisiri.
“One attribute of the national healing framework is the transitional justice component which must however work in tandem with other appendages as reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, counselling, restitution and so forth,” Maisiri said. “There is no way we can effectively carry out national healing when we want to exclude other components of the package, it must be total and all inclusive”.