Embracing diversity through tolerance


The world over, it is accepted that tolerance is critical for the maintenance of sustainable peace. This is why in 1996 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly invited UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November every year. Ban Ki-moon called for everyone to commemorate this day by ‘pledging to forge a path defined by dialogue, social cohesion, and mutual understanding’ during his tenure as the UN Secretary-General. His message remains relevant, particularly in the Zimbabwean context where intolerance reigns.

Zimbabwean diversity is characterised by differences in social backgrounds, religion, ethnicity, nationality, and political affiliation, among others. The Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 provides as follows in section 56(3):

“Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability or economic or social status, or whether they were born in or out of wedlock.”
This makes tolerance crucial to ensure that everyone in society is respected and respects others despite existing differences. Despite Zimbabweans being tolerant of social, religious and ethnic differences, as found by Afrobarometer in 2016, there is still much intolerance for political differences.

The most recent example of this intolerance is the politically motivated violence that erupted in Matobo and Insiza in October 2022 ahead of the planned by-elections. Examples of intolerance preceding violence in Zimbabwe can be traced as far back as the 1980s resulting in Gukurahundi, the 2008 political violence and the 1 August 2018 post-election shootings. In this regard, the cost of intolerance measured against human rights and preserving the sanctity of life remains exceptionally high in Zimbabwe. Recently, intolerance of divergent political views has increased political tensions in the country, particularly through harassing and bullying that is now commonplace including on social media platforms between supporters of political parties.

In marking the International Day of Tolerance, the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) calls upon everyone to exercise tolerance and resort to dialogue to resolve differences. The NTJWG views tolerance as an important building block to achieving sustainable peace and resolving past injustices. To this end, the NTJWG acknowledges the condemnation of the Matobo and Insiza.

political violence by political parties, specifically the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). However, it must be noted that condemnation of political violence is not enough, and practical steps must be taken to build tolerance. Therefore, the NTJWG calls for stakeholders to do the following:

  1. Political leaders must not only condemn violence but demonstrate their condemnation by cooperating with police investigations into violence, ensuring that perpetrators of violence face consequences according to the political party’s regulations, and adopting a zero-tolerance policy for intolerance in any form from their supporters;
  2. National human rights institutions such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Commission must work together to address intolerance in Zimbabwe by investigating complaints, publicly denouncing acts of intolerance, and educating the nation on the importance of tolerance;
  3. The Zimbabwe Republic Police must thoroughly investigate all cases of politically motivated violence without fear or favour; and
  4. The National Prosecuting Authority must diligently prosecute all perpetrators of political violence.

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