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Fresh impetus towards national healing

Tichona Zindoga Deputy Editor
The release of the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry report by President Mnangagwa on Tuesday signals a Zimbabwe that is ready to confront its scars, warts and all.

The report of the commission, set up to look into the August 1 post-election violence, was bound to ask difficult questions and lay bare circumstances of one of the disturbing incidents in Zimbabwe since Independence in 1980. This led to speculation that it would not be made public.

However, beyond exposing the uncomfortable circumstances of August 1, the report offers a useful approach in the key issues of national healing and reconciliation.

The inquiry was backgrounded by another difficult issue — the 1980s Matabeleland and Midlands political disturbances known as Gukurahundi, which the commission came across in several instances.

The Motlanthe Commission holds promise that national healing and reconciliation can be achieved in a scarred and polarised society.

“The Commission . . . was a necessary exercise to enable the people of Zimbabwe not only to come to terms with what happened during post-election violence but also to advance the cause of national reconciliation and healing by uncovering the truth,” says former South African president and chairman of the commission Kgalema Motlanthe in the foreword of the report.

“From the testimonies of the witnesses who appeared before the Commission, it was noted that there is at present a very worrisome degree of polarisation and bitterness within the body politic of Zimbabwe. In this regard, the Commission commends the continuing statements by the President of the Republic calling for reconciliation, healing and unity among the citizenry,” he said.

National healing, reconciliation and nation-building

Election-related violence has been identified as one of the dark episodes that have visited Zimbabwe with discomforting reality. The report says addressing election-related disturbances is essential to advance the cause of national reconciliation and healing by uncovering the truth.

The polarised nature of Zimbabwe’s political system has played a part in heightening violent stakes and that has to be addressed.

“Commission recommends the establishment of a multi-party reconciliation initiative, including youth representatives, with national and international mediation to address the root causes of the post-election violence and to identify and implement strategies for reducing tensions, promoting common understandings of political campaigning, combating criminality, and uplifting communities,” says the report.

It urges that the National Peace and Reconciliation and Human Rights Commissions to increase their efforts to fully implement their mandates.

According to the report, there is need for national healing as highlighted by the continued reference especially in Bulawayo and Gweru to events such as Gukurahundi.

Compensation

Those in the fields of justice at local and international level with focus on the victims and repairing the injury they would have suffered have suggested several mechanisms which can help victims.

Compensation is cited as one of the methods of “restorative justice”, as it refers to the provision of resources to a victim of injustice with the goal of minimising or reversing the impact of harm done by the injustice.

And the Motlanthe Commission puts the idea of compensation firmly in the court to help the victims of August 1 and their families.

The scope of the proposal incorporates:

Payment through a special committee to be set up by the Government, of compensation for losses and damages caused including in particular, support and school fees for the children of the deceased;
The payment of compensation is recommended for all victims of the violence and dependants of the deceased. Where the deceased had young children, they should be urgently assisted with school fees and their general welfare.
The Government should put in place a special committee to assess and determine the quantum of damages and compensation to be awarded to victims on a case-by-case basis.
The Government should set up a fund to assist those directly affected.
There is urgent need to avail medical support to all those who were injured.
There are a number of issues that are carried in the report. It was like a surgeon performing a post-mortem.

It is not a pleasant duty for all one can imagine.

However, the Motlanthe Commission was able to make key indications as to what ails this country and its troubled, violence-ridden past.

From there, the country looks set to take away some vital lessons that can be used to confront uneasy and dark epochs.

It is a journey towards national healing, peace and reconciliation.

Source: The Herald

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