Zimbabwe's National Healing Elusive

The three political parties who are part of the GPA, set up a national healing Ministry, headed by top officials from the three parties. The Ministry will spearhead a national healing process and promote re-building of the country following a decade long political strife and economic decline. The Ministry is headed by John Nkomo (Zanu PF) (now Vice President), Gibson Sibanda (MDC-M) and Sekai Holland.

However, a year later after the inclusive government was set up, Zimbabweans are disillusioned as healing appears elusive.

Civil Society organisations say they fear another escalation of political violence if the new unity government does not reform uniformed forces and state security departments.

“With the increasingly polarized political landscape, a resurgence of is institutionalized human rights violations, particulary in regard to harassment of  human rights activists and  increased use of repressive legislation are expected…and if Zimbabwe is not to return to the pre-June 2008 era, there is an urgent  need for institutional reforms,” warns the Civil Society Monitoring Mechanisation (CISOMM).

CISOMM is a grouping of civil society organisations independently monitoring and evaluating performance of the inclusive government.

“The conduct of the Police, Army and Prison officials has remained in breach of the spirit of the Inclusive Government intended to reform
these and inculcate a culture of respect for human rights. At the same time these institutions have not yet received any of the human rights
training that was also a requirement of the GPA,” it says.

“This is disappointing given the shared responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs by MDC and Zanu PF Ministers. Training curriculum for the uniformed forces should be urgently revised, with the inclusion of experts from the civil society and implementation to be monitored. This will bring an immediate halt to political violence and intimidation and harassment of political activitists, civil members, lawyers and journalists. This will also see an increased respect for the freedoms of assembly and association by uninterrupted political rallies, meetings, and workshops of all kinds.”

This concern is coming at a time when a survey has shown that most rural Zimbabweans are unaware of the healing process.

The survey conducted in all the country’s 10 provinces by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, said 65 percent of the rural population interviewed said they had never heard of the National Healing Organ and its responsibilities. They said they had no clue about the programme. It also came out in the report that 62 percent of f Zanu PF supporters wanted perpetrators of political violence to be given an amnesty, while 59 percent of MDC supporters demanded an immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the June 2008 political violence.

“We are surprised that the programme of national healing is talked of in Hotels, leaving the rural areas where the victims are. The other problem is that  some of the people who were appointed to spearhead the programme are politicians who happen to be the initiators of political violence and to them it  makes no sense to denounce political violence. We must remember that political violence is always initiated by politicians who mobilise people for their political gains and its difficult for the same people to de-campaign the act, says an observer, Bernard Kwangwari. “Some of these politicians leading the process have seen a lot of blood during their political life and they are not surprised by the number of people who died in 2008.”

“This responsibility was supposed to be given to the churches as they are known for praying for peace not some of these politicians who are murderers,” commented Sheila Kamangira, another observer.

There have been reports that torture bases have been set up in Nyanga North, Makoni ,Chegutu farms, and Gokwe Gumunyu. These are said to be manned by armed personnel and youth militia. Some villagers have been threatened with death if they refuse to support the Kariba Draft when the constitution making teams visit them to solicit their ideas.

CISOMM says it is concerned at the re-emergency of militia controlled torture bases in rural areas ahead of the country’s constitution making process, harassment of human rights activists, journalists and the few remaining white commercial  farmers.

Fresh fears have gripped Zimbabwe’s media fraternity following the arrest of distributors of The Zimbabwean, an independent newspaper published in the United Kingdom but widely distributed across Zimbabwe.

Two directors of Adquest distributors, Barnabas Madzimure and Fortune Mutandiro, were arrested on February 10 and charged for contravening the Criminal Law (Codification& Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23, which criminalises the publication of falsehoods prejudicial to the State. Their arrest was in connection with a story published in the newspaper on January 10, alleging that Zanu PF officials among them Emmerson Mnangagwa and Jonathan Moyo had met in Gweru on Christmas Day to plot the formation of a splinter party.

Madzimure and Mutandiro are denying the charge on the basis that their company had not started distributing The Zimbabwean at the time of the publication of the story, and that they were not responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper.

The director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe chapter, Nhlanhla Ngwenya, said the arrest betrayed the inclusive government’s lack of commitment to open up media space.

“We have to bear it in mind that this incident comes just a few weeks after journalist Stanley Kwenda fled the country after receiving death threats, and the brief detention of another journalist, Adrison Manyere,” says Ngwenya.

Kwenda, a correspondent of The Zimbabwean newspaper, fled the country after he allegedly received death threats from Crispen Makedenge, a senior police officer.

“All these incidents clearly vindicate our position as MISA that the government is not committed to any media reforms,” says Ngwenya

More than 200 MDC supporters were killed by armed soldiers, while hundreds were displaced during the 2008 political violence.