Community members have dismissed the notion that Traditional Leaders must lead Transitional Justice processes in Zimbabwe. This came out during a Heal Zimbabwe virtual Transitional Justice Report Launch titled “Transitional Justice in Pre-Transitional Societies: The case of Zimbabwe and Uganda” on 11 September 2020.
Community members who participated in the report launch highlighted that most traditional leaders in local communities are now dabbling in politics, which makes them too compromised to lead Transitional Justice processes. “Most Traditional Leaders in Hurungwe hold political positions as chairpersons and other positions. Over the years, we have seen them even perpetrating violence which has disrupted prevalence of social cohesion in local communities,” said one participant from Hurungwe West. Community members also highlighted that Transitional Justice processes in Zimbabwe tend to ignore grassroots participation besides the fact that most gruesome episodes of state sponsored violence such as Gukurahundi and 2008 political violence were mostly concentrated in local communities. Community members further highlighted that past reconciliation attempts were dealt a heavy blow by lack of political will among political players.
Other emerging community issues raised during the report launch include the lack of funding for the Chapter 12 Independent Commissions supporting democracy such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which has seen them failing to decentralise their services. Community members also highlighted that in most cases, the work of these commissions is politicised. An example of the ZHRC was cited where in most cases it has failed to thoroughly investigate human rights issues taking place at the local level due to political interference.
The transitional justice report recommended among other issues that in the case of slow progress and, in some instances, irrelevance of state-led Transitional Justice processes, communities can initiate their own interventions which are customised to meet individual and community level needs at grassroots level.