Rape survivors keep quiet

The National Transitional Justice Working Group in Zimbabwe has urged female victims of political violence to open up in order to make transitional justice and reconciliation a reality.

Memory Kachambwa.
Memory Kachambwa.

The group was formed by some 46 stakeholders to provide a forum for mapping out lasting transitional justice processes. It noted that participation in discussions by women was minimal, despite the fact that they constitute the majority of the victims.

NTJWG is conducting meetings with communities across the country to help put in place mechanisms to avoid the recurrence of violence that has characterised past political processes.

Memory Kachambwa, the Group member responsible for the Gender portfolio, said women were naturally reluctant to open up. “As a group, we are creating a conducive environment for women to speak out freely about their experiences as victims of politically-motivated rape and other forms of violence. We are doing everything possible to ensure that women understand the importance of NTJWG,” she said.

Guarantees that perpetrators of the violence would be brought to justice and that victims would be compensated might help motivate women disclose their past ordeals, she said. Although some results of the violations seemed too ghastly to disclose, women should gather their courage and speak out for the national good.

Some married women bore children as a result of gang rape and were scared of making confessions lest their marriages were compromised.

Pamela Machakanja, the group deputy chair, said they would provide technical support to the Justice Commission. “There must be thorough research since it would be dangerous for the nation to deal with the transitional justice issue from an assumptive position,” she cautioned.

The group chair, human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, said the approach was victim-centred and aimed at coming up with a peaceful, just and democratic nation. “No victim from any period is more important than the other,” he said, noting that several peace initiatives had been taken before, but failed due to lack of common ground from which to tackle the issue.

Rev Fradereck Chiromba said the church had an important role to play in any justice and peace seeking process. “We have worked with the GNU Organ for National Healing and Reconciliation in the past and would continue to do so until the country obtains genuine transitional justice,” said Chiromba. NTJWG was formed following a symposium of 70 Zimbabwe CSOs in Johannesburg last August. It resolved to put in place mechanisms to ensure that past violations never reoccur in Zimbabwe. It was recommended that institutions be put in place to deal with past and present human rights violations and that such institutions be empowered not only to investigate and seek the truth but recommend criminal prosecution and provide redress and reparations for victims, leading to national healing.

According to the Zimbabwe Rape Survivors Association, during the 2008 elections an estimated 2,000 women and girls were the targets of politically-motivated violence. State-sanctioned Zanu (PF) supporters were the main culprits accused of perpetrating the violence against suspected MDC members. Zimbabwe is yet to come up with a meaningful National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

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