Don't sweep it under the carpet

When Moses Mzila was appointed co-minister for National Healing he said he there was no point in talking about healing without restoring the damage done. He was quite right.

But, if it is stated that bluntly (and maybe he did acknowledge there are complications) we would seem to be at a dead end, with both sides making their maximum demands and both refusing.

Some preliminaries are needed before we can talk like that to each other. First, both sides must be able to tell and recognise the truth.

Victims have been injured not only in their bodies, but in their mind and spirit. If there is not some attempt to heal this, they won't put their case as effectively as they could.

If that attempt is made, they can tell their story to anyone, fearlessly but demanding justice, which will enable us to put the past behind us and go forward together. That is different from vengeance, which inflicts new injuries and, in the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”.

Those who committed these crimes must be able to face the truth. That is easier for the ones who actually got blood on their hands, because they are often victims also. Some were forced to beat their neighbours or relatives, or to do worse things than that. They need personal healing as much as their victims do.

Then there are the youths who hang around Mbare Musika waiting to be offered work, drinking and smoking to relieve the boredom and despair of their lives and therefore drinking and smoking stronger and rougher stuff than most of us do. Many of them who were used now feel worse because of the things they did. They need to be offered a way out.

One rural community classified four levels of perpetrators, with these forced or bribed “foot soldiers” on the lowest level. At the highest level in their community were just three men who planned everything, gave orders and never got a drop of blood on their own hands. They will be the most difficult to deal with, but not impossible.

The lowest level were their hands and feet. Without those limbs they can do very little, and that might make them begin to think. Some of them are making so much noise that we know they see this and resist change. The biggest task is to show them forgiveness is possible and that there is life after that.

The one white ZIPRA combatant in the Second Chimurenga was bombed by South African agents in Harare in 1986. He later researched on apartheid 'dirty tricks', met, in Chikurubi, the men who bombed him. He discovered they had been at school together – but they didn't want forgiveness. They saw him as a traitor to his tribe.

Remember another wise man said: “Always forgive your enemies: nothing annoys them more”. If they are not ready to repent, offering forgiveness will sound like an insult. They need help to open their eyes and their hearts. That will be another story.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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