No national reconciliation without acknowledgement, apology and accountability

Yesterday was a very interesting day for me, as far as issues of nation reconciliation were concerned - with the swearing in of a new National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) chairman, an advert of a new movie on Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, and the labelling by the state broadcaster of Gukurahundi activists as 'rabble rousers'.

Selo Masole Nare

All these three things brought into stark focus the problems this country faces as far as national reconciliation is concerned, and will face, probably way into the unforeseeable future, if certain bold steps are not taken by all involved.
As much as there is now a new chairman for the NPRC, retired Justice Selo Masole Nare, the work ahead is largely premised not just on him, but on all the people involved in this country sordid history – as they need to bravely stand up and do the right thing for peace and reconciliation.
The key to any form of peace and reconciliation is acknowledgment and apologizing, and being prepared to be held to account.
All of us have, at one time or another wronged someone, or have been wronged, and unless we are some type of fools, we know that the key to any forgiveness and reconciliation is an acknowledgment of the wrong done, a sincere apology, and a willingness to face the consequences.
If there is one person I have wronged so many times, it is my dear wife Tinta – but, I always know that, if I want genuine joy and reconciliation in my marriage, I need to sincerely apologize and truthfully acknowledge what I would have done wrong.
There is no shortcut to this.
I can not just go to my beloved wife and say, ‘Babe, let bygones be bygones. Let’s move on and forget what happened. Let’s do this for peace in our marriage’.
If ever you wanted matters to get even worse, just try that!
Bygones can not be simply be bygones, without an acknowledgment, apology, and preparedness to face the music – that is the only secret to genuine peace and reconciliation.
If you have tried just buying a bunch of red roses and some expensive necklace – without a sincere apology and acknowledgment – and ‘peace ‘ seemed to have returned to your home, then you have not seen anything yet.
Peace may have returned, but she would not have genuinely forgiven you – and she will keep what you did in her heart forever – such that, your actions will come back to haunt you in the future – as she will constantly remind you of what you once did to her, and she can even revenge you one way or another.
In fact, that brings me to the second interesting aspect of yesterday – the liberation struggle movie that is to be shown at a theater in Borrowdale Harare soon.
This movie was made with the involvement of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), and according to the trailer advertised on the state broadcaster last evening, it is an action packed thriller on Rhodesia and the liberation struggle.
However, what touched me the most is the racist nature of White Rhodesians portrayed in the trailer.
Such scenes may be merely categorised as purely historical discourse, but, how they are portrayed, says much more – as it depicted a raw wound that some who were at the mercy of White Rhodesia still have.
I have witnessed the same bitterness, and even downright anger and hatred, with those who have personal accounts of the brutality they suffered at the hands of Rhodesians.
Even when narrating events that took place over four decades ago, they are still filled with emotion and tears.
My questions, therefore is: why not simply let bygones be bygones?
Why still the anger, hatred, and the need to keep telling the story of Rhodesian atrocities – four decades later?
Is it not because there was never any acknowledgment and apology from the Rhodesians on what they did during the colonial years?
If that is the case, why then does the current ZANU PF government find it so hard to understand the plight of victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities – that witnessed the brutal massacre by the defence forces of over 20,000 innocent and defenceless men, women and children in the Midlands and Mathebeleland provinces?
Of all the people on this planet, I would have thought that the current government and their defence forces colleagues – who have even made a movie on Rhodesian atrocities and the liberation struggle – would be the first to understand what the victims of Gukurahundi are feeling.
What then boggled my mind during last evening’s state broadcaster’s news bulletin was the labelling of Gukurahundi activists as ‘rabble rousers’.
Why would people who also suffered atrocities, not be empathetic with others who also suffered atrocities?
Or, is it because the current ZANU PF government is the very same one that massacred all those people during Gukurahundi, such that they are now being hypocritical – as they do not want the nation to forget Rhodesian atrocities and the liberation struggle, but we all should conveniently forget Gukurahundi, and let bygones be bygones?
This hypocrisy has reached ridiculous levels, such that merely talking about Gukurahundi is regarded as ‘rabble rousing’.
Can we also label the new ZDF movie ‘rabble rousing’ for opening up old wounds?
I think not!
One can only imagine what will be the fate of someone who dares make a movie on the Gukurahundi!
Is the Gukurahundi not just as important a component of Zimbabwean history as the Rhodesian era and the liberation struggle?
Should they not be accorded the same weight, as both were defining moments in our history?
This should pressure the NPRC to consider all these episodes in the country’s history with the seriousness they deserve.
However, most importantly, without an acknowledgment, apology, and accountability from all those responsible for committing atrocities on a defenceless people, there will be no hope of any genuine peace and reconciliation – and is a recipe for disaster, as the situation could boil over in the future, leading to future catastrophe.
Although, it is entirely up to the NPRC to set the time line of which point in our history they would want to start from, if prudence is to prevail, the most recent events such as Rhodesia and Gukurahundi need to take centre stage.
Clearly, these are still the most painful and fresh – with most of those affected still alive today.
True healing is not for cowards, but for brave men, women, and children.
Nazi German went through the same thing with Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust against the Jews, but after World War II, the Germans were brave enough to acknowledge and apologise for their atrocities, and put in place mechanisms to prevent any future recurrence of fascism –  thereby, helping in the healing process of the nation and affected Jews.
We need the same approach in Zimbabwe.
There are to be no sacred cows if we are to have genuine healing, peace and reconciliation in this country, and everything has to be laid bare and tackled fearlessly and truthfully – with those who committed atrocities acknowledging and apologising, and being held to account.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ZimJustice’ page on Facebook.
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