Zimbabwe needs transitional justice

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THERE have been gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe since attainment of Uhuru in 1980.
The most brutal human rights violations took place in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces between 1983 and 1987 when over 20 000 civilians were slain by a North Korean-trained crack unit, the dreaded red-bereted 5th Brigade, in what the government at the time claimed was a counter-insurgence operation against dissidents who had infiltrated the provinces.

Thirty-three years after Gukurahundi ended, the massacres remain an emotive issue and the nation is still battling on how to find closure to the matter.

A National Peace and Reconciliation Commission was constituted, to among other things, deal with the Gukurahundi matter, but it has not done much to find closure.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Bulawayo recently to meet the civil society and once again their discussion centred on the sensitive Gukurahundi issue. Mnangagwa said he was taking the grievances of the people of Matabeleland seriously, including dialogue towards finding closure to Gukurahundi.

But it is difficult to find closure to the atrocities when the government has over the years failed to at least apologise to the victims of the massacres. The country needs a true transitional justice mechanism to deal with Gukurahundi. Anything short of it will achieve nothing.

Most of the perpetrators of the atrocities and human rights violations have never been arrested, prosecuted or jailed. The country simply needs to deal with the culture of impunity and the only acceptable mechanism is transitional justice.

The transitional justice should be designed to strengthen democracy and peace and these goals are more likely to be reached with active consultation of and participation by victims as well as the general public.

There’s need for a concrete framework for transitional justice such as instituting criminal prosecutions, establishing a truth commission, reparations programmes, gender justice, security reforms and memorisation efforts.

Zimbabwe must take a leaf from South Africa’s transitional justice after apartheid.
It is incumbent upon the country to conduct a serious investigation of violations when they occur, to impose suitable sanctions on those responsible for the violations, and to ensure reparations for the victims of these violations.

There is need for accountability, truth recovery, reconciliation, institutional reform and reparation if the country is to find closure on the Gukurahundi matter.

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