No Healing, Reconciliation without Truth and Justice

On 30 March 2016, Heal Zimbabwe conducted a public consultative meeting on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill at Crowne Plaza hotel in Harare attended by 503 people. The meeting came as part of a HZT campaign on the NPRC being run under the theme #participatetohealzimbabwe.

Part of the crowd at the public meeting

Part of the crowd at the public meeting

The meeting offered an opportunity for different stakeholders from various sectors to contribute to the debate on the topic “ Is Zimbabwe ready for an effective Truth, Justice, Healing and Reconciliation process?” Heal Zimbabwe invited experts from the business sector, war veterans, agriculture, women’s movement, government, academic, legal and national healing and reconciliation.

The panelists included Professor Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law expert, Mr. Moses Mzila Ndlovu, a former core-Minister of National Healing and Reconciliation, Dr Shingi Munyeza, a business expert, Ben Freeth, a farmer, Mrs Anna Tinarwo, a representative from the  Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) and women rights expert, Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa. Chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa who had confirmed himself as a panelist, excused himself at the last minute.

In his opening remarks, Heal Zimbabwe Executive Director, Mr. Rashid Mahiya highlighted the importance of truth telling which a prerequisite for healing and reconciliation. “….Zimbabwe has a long history of violations….and there is a culture of fear and mistrust as a result of that. Because Government has acknowledged through the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that we need reconciliation and healing, we must not sit and watch, but participate as a nation…” he said. He also highlighted that Heal Zimbabwe conducted the indaba to gather public views on broader issues of national healing and raise awareness on the NPRC bill.

The first presenter, Dr Munyeza spoke about the importance of economic healing and justice. He acknowledged that forgiveness is a vital component that is needed if Zimbabwe is to achieve meaningful reconciliation. “…We need to ask for forgiveness…we need to go back to Jesus, the healer himself….” he said. He further noted that corruption has created torment and hardships for the ordinary person and that if healing is to be achieved, the truth must be told and people must be able to tell who “…plundered what and where…” and compensation must be offered to those who lost their savings.

Ben Freeth, a farmer and Executive Director of the Mike Campbell Foundation, narrated about the trauma he and other white farmers went through during the fast track land reform programme. Freeth highlighted that white farmers became the target of violence as their farms were forcefully grabbed. “..I believe we have a deep wound…” he said. He also lamented the disregard of court orders by ZANU PF and the police on land issues and highlighted that healing can only take place if there is rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Mrs Anna Tinarwo from ONHRI, gave a background of peace and reconciliation from the days of the Unity Government, and how the organ was instrumental in the tabling of presentations that brought about the NPRC during the constitution making process. She also announced that the bill will go through the due processes and the relevant Parliamentary committees will be conducting public hearings from the 10th to 17th April 2016 “….Our being here today is not by mistake, but we want to enrich the document…”, she said.

In his presentation, Professor Lovemore Madhuku was quick to note that people should not expect the bill to work when the constitution is failing to work. He highlighted that the constitution was full of inconsistencies particularly on the NPRC which made it difficult for the Commission to operate effectively. “….There is no truth, healing and justice in the work of the NPRC…” he said.

Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa noted that there are several violations that women have gone through from the days of the liberation struggle. “…People move, one can be a perpetrator in another situation, and a victim in another situation. We have to take account of that….”, she said. In her presentation, she highlighted that the victim should not be pressured to forgive but reconciliation should be sincere.

Mr. Mzila Ndlovu spoke passionately about Gukurahundi massacres that took place in Matabeleland in the 1980s. He was quick to point out that failure by Government to take responsibility over the massacres has made reconciliation efforts difficult. Mzila noted that during his time as co-Minister of National Healing, political interference made the work of the Ministry very difficult. In the end they were able to achieve minimal results. “.…If you want to seek a peaceful resolution to the issues, then you must be genuine…but I believe the people in power right now are not genuine…”, he said.

The public meeting came after Heal Zimbabwe conducted 59 other public meetings on the NPRC bill across the country. The objectives of these meetings were to raise awareness on the contents of the NPRC bill and to educate the public on the constitutional functions of the NPRC. They also sought to gauge the preparedness of the country to spearhead a genuine, transparent and meaningful national healing and reconciliation process. Heal Zimbabwe will continue lobbying for a more transparent and participatory NPRC that is sensitive to the plight and concerns of survivors of all forms of violence and conflict.

Below are some of the views from the public on the NPRC bill:

  • Participants noted that the church has let reconciliation efforts down by not playing its role of encouraging truth telling and forgiveness.
  • Participants highlighted that opposition parties forgot their mandate during their time in the inclusive government particularly those who were co-Ministers of National Healing.
  • Participants also wanted to know why the NPRC was not carrying out public awareness campaigns on the NPRC bill.
  • Other participants had reservations on the genuineness of the NPRC to champion issues of healing and reconciliation given that the process was being led by politicians.
  • One participant noted that government should offer compensation to those who lost their savings and pensions during the dollarization process.
  • One participant questioned the suitability of Vice President, Phekezela Mphoko to lead reconciliation processes given his stance on Gukurahundi.
  • Some participants questioned why the NPRC was not yet functional 3 years after it was adopted.
  • Participants also expressed reservations on the genuineness of government to fully  operationalise the NPRC.
  • Participants also noted that the NPRC bill gives  too many powers to the Minister responsible.
  • Participants also questioned the independence of the Commission from political interference and manipulation.
  • Participants suggested that the NPRC bill should be accountable to Parliament and not the Minister.
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