Reconciliation, Justice And National Healing Debate
HOT SEAT teleconference: Journalist Violet Gonda interviews George Bizos, Sekai Holland, Glen Mpani and Mary Ndlovu – reconciliation, justice and national healing debate
VIOLET GONDA: My guests on the Hot Seat programme are distinguished South African human rights advocate George Bizos, Amai Sekai Holland who’s the Minister of State responsible for National Healing and Reconciliation, Glen Mpani the regional co-ordinator for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, and Mary Ndlovu a social justice activist working with WOZA – the Women of Zimbabwe Arise.
Now Zimbabwe, since 1960 has experienced high levels of human rights abuses dating from the Smith regime to the Matabeleland period to the current phase where individuals have disappeared, while some have been tortured and murdered.
However the country has not addressed the challenge of addressing past wounds and holding individuals responsible to account. In this programme we discuss the commitment by the inclusive government in Zimbabwe to institute a process of
|national healing and reconciliation, and I’ll start with Amai Sekai Holland, who is the Minister of State responsible for National Healing and Reconciliation. Amai Holland, what are your terms of reference first of all?
SEKAI HOLLAND : Can I just correct you – there are three Ministers of State, there is myself from MDC T, there is Minister John Nkomo from Zanu-PF and Minister Gibson Sibanda from MDC Mutambara. The three of us are in the process of setting up an organ for national healing, reconciliation and integration of Zimbabwean society. It’s going to be an independent body; it’s not going to be a ministry. We are at the moment really intensely engaged in, not just talking among ourselves the three of us; we are meeting a lot of organisations and individuals. Our terms of reference are to establish an organ of national healing, reconciliation and integration of Zimbabwean society.
GONDA : When is this organ going to be established?
HOLLAND : We are at the moment at the point where we are going to have a launch just as we had of the STERP, the Short Term Economic Recovery Plan. We are going to have a launch; after the launch we hope that we are then able to set up our secretariat and that a whole lot of activities will start. The establishment is not going to be done at the top level; our role will be to work within the Global Political Agreement which tells us exactly what to do and our role will really be what every body like ours will be doing – which is to co-ordinate, which is really to just see what progress is being made and it is to guide, it is not to do. So when you say when is it going to be established, it is in the process of being established but it is going to be launched. And then people in Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans outside Zimbabwe who have an interest in participating will be able to actually come in with much of the programming.
GONDA: Right, let me go to Mary Ndlovu. The appointment of Ministers of National Healing as we’ve just heard from Amai Holland, what does it signify first of all and secondly what benefit will emerge from this in your view?
MARY NDLOVU: Well I would first want to ask some questions of Amai Holland. One is, is this simply for reconciliation or is it to institute a complete transitional justice process? And the second question; is what mechanisms will be set up to consult with ordinary people on the ground as to what kind of process they would like to have?
GONDA: OK, Amai Holland, are you able to answer that right away?
HOLLAND : I’ll answer number two first. Our vision is to actually take an all-inclusive approach that is grassrootsbased, that will be guided by Zimbabweans. That’s the approach we are taking. On what mechanism will be set up, the people will decide.
NDLOVU: Yes, OK, I was just wondering what mechanism to consult the people, to find out what they want?
HOLLAND : At Independence in 1980, I think you were in Zimbabwe ?
HOLLAND : There was a lot of consultation done in terms of a whole lot of range of change of direction from what Smith did to what the new government was going to do and there was a multiplicity of tools that were used to really get the legal framework, to get the institutional framework set. I think that if Zimbabweans would really want to take this head-on, we are going to have at hand a very wide consultative process. It depends on whether people are ready to participate or not.
GONDA: We will come to that to find out what people want and if people are ready for that, but Mary now could you answer my earlier questions – what does this signify and what benefit will emerge from this in your view?
NDLOVU: Well I think it is a very important process and it’s a very necessary process that we heal before we can move ahead to build or as we move ahead to build the future, but it’s not a simple thing and it’s going to take time. And one issue we’re concerned about is how we work ahead with healing and reconciliation when we’ve got some of the perpetrators of abuses still in place, people who are still arresting members of WOZA for example, the same people are there. So how are we going to start discussing reconciliation when we see those same people in their places?
GONDA: From what you have seen, is there political will now by both political parties to address the wrongs of the past, not just what has happened now, but even the wrongs of the past during Gukurahundi, to uncover the truth and move the country forward?
NDLOVU: From what I have seen, there is no will on the part of Zanu-PF to undertake that process.
GONDA: Glen, you were in Zimbabwe recently, do people feel safe to talk about this right now?
GLEN MPANI: Thank you so much Violet. I think that it’s very difficult for me to make a general perspective on what Zimbabweans really feel in terms of discussing these issues. But if Amai Sekai Holland is saying that they are going to be providing space for Zimbabweans to debate this, the issues that come into my mind is what sort of framework is going to be put in place, considering that our media in Zimbabwe is still constricted in such a way that the people cannot be able to participate broadly. Secondly, the other issue is have the people of Zimbabwe been put through a process where they now have a sense of urgency considering that in the last couple of years it has been very, very difficult to group Zimbabweans to come together and be able to debate these issues without fear, considering that some of the individuals, like what Mary is saying, are still moving around in the communities where they perpetrated such high levels of violence.
So I think there is a huge challenge for this mechanism that is going to come in; one to build confidence that whatever process they are going to go through, it is a real process which is not going to lead to a further backlash on them as individuals. So I think it is a matter of time, it’s not one thing that can happen overnight, but I think that process is going to take a lot of effort and confidence building, not only from the political leadership who are guiding this process but even local leadership, grassroots leadership would need to take a very pivotal role in this process.
GONDA: Yes, but from just the conversations you have been having with people on the ground, even if it’s just a small group, what are people saying so far about this?
MPANI: I think there is a huge gap that is there. I think the leadership at the top have been able to make some milestones in terms of them coming together and striking a common agenda in terms of how to work together but there is a disjuncture with what is happening at the top and what is on the ground. That is why we are having, now hearing some cases of, incidents of violence that are taking place in pockets of Zimbabwe across the country. That is why we are hearing even cases that are taking place where people don’t really feel that there is a healing process or there is an inclusive government that is in place. So what is transpiring at the top needs to take place at the bottom and I think that is a huge challenge.
GONDA: Now let me go to Advocate Bizos who sat on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Now Advocate, who should drive a process of national healing and reconciliation first of all?
GEORGE BIZOS: Well I have heard the persons that have already spoken, they are Zimbabweans, they have to find a way. I can only speak of the South African experience and it sounded as difficult for us in the early 90’s whilst we were talking about a new constitution and what was going to happen to perpetrators of atrocious crimes for political ends, for the achievement of political objectives. The way we did it was to have a provision in the constitution that there will be amnesty, not for the asking but there were certain preconditions; the most important of which was that you had to tell the truth – the whole truth. And that you had to have committed the unlawful act for the gain of some political objective on behalf of a known political body, albeit government or opposition. The details were left to be worked out in legislation to be passed by the would-be elected government – which happened.
We were very fortunate to have had the leadership of Archbishop Tutu and other people of a high profile who enjoyed the confidence of the majority of the people in the country, but seven and a half thousand people applied for amnesty; less than half were granted the amnesty. Those who asked for amnesty and were not granted were liable to prosecution for the crimes that they confessed to but there was a provision that the evidence that they gave could not be used against them.
The issue really is a difficult one because victims cry out for justice and amnesty is something short of it, but if a country is to look to the future of its people, it is an agreement not to do justice in its ordinary sense, but what we would call transformative justice – in order to transform the society, in order to have unity and have some progress in human rights terms, economic advancement and reconciliation.
On balance it worked out although some of the victims are dissatisfied because it wasn’t the complete process and they are complaining about the absence of some sort of compensation for their loss. So but on balance, we were not likely to have had a settlement between the apartheid regime and the liberation movement if we did not agree to this amnesty procedure.
GONDA: I was going to ask about that; could a blanket amnesty have healed the nation?
BIZOS: The representatives of the apartheid regime wanted blanket amnesty but the liberation movement, particularly the African National Congress insisted that it should not be so, but also had to agree that what was to happen to the apartheid regime offenders was to happen to the liberation movement members. Something that was a little hard to swallow by the liberation movement because it was claimed that the apartheid regime was an illegitimate regime whereas the liberation movement was fighting a just war so to speak.
GONDA: Amai Holland, of late we have heard or seen the president, we’ve seen the prime minister imploring Zimbabweans to forgive and forget and yet over the last few weeks we have also seen an escalation of incidents of violence as MDC supporters revenge, as they seek to regain property that they lost during the last elections. What do you make of those developments?
HOLLAND : Actually Violet, I think I should really go back to saying to you that I don’t want us to take this interview in a void. We have got a Global Political Agreement which stands on four legs. We have the democratisation process, we’ve got the leg where we would like to actually deal comprehensively with the humanitarian crisis, we’ve got the process where we’ve got the economic stabilisation process – which we now have STERP to do that in – and the fourth one is the national healing. The Global Political Agreement is a comprehensive document and you need to put national healing in that framework. You can’t talk about national healing outside the framework of the GPA.
Article Seven of the GPA begins a discussion on a process of national healing. Article Seven notes that the new government shall give consideration to the setting up of a mechanism to properly advice on what measures might be necessary and practicable to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre and post independence political conflict. That’s the first point I want to make.
The second point I want to make is this, that if you take the debate at the level you are trying to take it now, where we discuss what is happening now outside the Global Political Agreement, we are actually going to miss the boat, the way we did in 1980 – when a policy on reconciliation was declared, admired by everybody but nobody in the NGO community, in the Churches, anywhere tried to understand what that basically could translate into nation building. What we are doing right now with the opportunity we have is to work within the political framework that we have been given to ensure an all-inclusive process, where we are working with the other ministries that are involved in also fulfilling the GPA.
It is not easy in Zimbabwe as we stand right now. When Tsvangirai came back and started to discuss with us the issue on whether we would go into the agreement as these things stood or not. We had very serious debates and discussions on our own personal views to how we would move forward. When we agreed to get involved in the GPA and sign, although there had been big differences before in discussing what we would do, we eventually at the national executive level reached a consensus. There was a consensus in the national council. There were ten provinces for and two against. Now, once we agreed to go in, we made the decision that we would actually fight to open democratic space inside. We are inside now.
We are actually facing the most daunting situations but we are fighting to open this democratic space. And we are fighting to ensure that what brought us to where we are is understood. With MDC , in March 2006, we had a congress; we agreed that we would force a situation in the country where we would use non-violent methods to bring Mugabe to the negotiating table. We finally did. The negotiations were a result of the March 11 2007 beatings of us.
The SADC countries decided to force a situation where Zimbabweans would talk about talks and have them. The result we have is not very good but we are inside now and in the short time we have been inside, those that actually see the sense of fighting from inside are organising themselves inside Zimbabwe to ensure that the GPA works.
My appeal to everybody Violet, would be people talking with people inside, who are involved in doing things inside, how to get this to work. I thought that maybe I would share some things with you of how we are achieving some of the things that may be showing results.
In our own unit we have achieved three things already. The first one is that we have got a date when we are going to launch. The second one is that we have got an idea of how we can actually get an inclusive process – the problem in Zimbabwe is that individuals, organisations and groups believe in their own individual state that they actually have the answer for everybody. What we need to understand as Zimbabweans is that each one of us has a piece of the answer and that we need to start working together. The situation is very difficult in terms of security; we now have Giles Mutsekwa in Home Affairs, he is fighting there to get certain changes made where we will actually be able to make some progress in the way that we do get our consultations going.
I don’t mind people being sceptical and really saying what can we do and trying things out for us but the most destructive thing that we Zimbabweans tend to do is to pour water on potential things that could work and ensure that things simply don’t work. I’m asking for people to look at the GPA, talk about national healing as a part of totality, that’s how this was designed and to see that it has been a very broad achievement by the GPA to include the whole issue which was left out in 1980 of national healing, of reconciliation and integration of Zimbabwean society. If people have an understanding as to how this can be improved, when the launch is done, the opportunities for people to come and do the work in the best way they can, we will be open. And the launch we are hoping will be in the next two weeks.
GONDA: But Amai Holland, this is what the politicians, you as politicians are organising right now, but on the ground the situation is still different, so I go back to my earlier question – how are you dealing with all the other problems that are continuing, you know, on the ground?
HOLLAND : OK, in Buhera we were there today, there were 12 to 15 people who are MDC who were arrested after the police had told the people who took things from MDC people – they were told to return them, the things were returned. However we are told that a couple of days ago, people from the army went to the MDC people who had received their things back, took those things back to the Zanu-PF people and arrested the 12 people. This issue has now been put, both to Home Affairs and to National Healing. So tomorrow morning, because we received this today, tomorrow morning, the three Ministers are meeting, we will also meet with Home Affairs, this is the first concrete thing we have received.
Remember JOMIC is also receiving very concrete issues from the grassroots and they are dealing with those. How are we going to deal with that? Today when the report was given to me in writing, the two chiefs from the area – Makumbe and Gweru – were present and they are also, as traditional leaders, involved in this because what they want to do is to ensure that the traditional manner of resolving conflict does actually start to work now. Because they are saying that it was politicised under Smith, it has been politicised under Mugabe and they would like to really like to understand how traditional chiefs in this new dispensation can ensure that the 12 to 15 people are released and they get their property back. These are the concrete cases that are taking place on the ground.
GONDA: What role briefly are you playing on the issue of the violence on the farms?
HOLLAND: We actually for the first time got the details of that from Minister Chinamasa in Victoria Falls and again tomorrow we are going to see how this can be met by us in the way in which we are organising so that these are also dealt with very, very urgently because at the moment JOMIC is dealing with that. Our role is not to arrest people or to go and talk to them, that’s the work of the Home Affairs. Our work is really to create a set of tools and Zimbabweans have an abundance of cultural assets that they use in conflict resolution which we would like to actually harness and get people to understand that they empower themselves in starting to use these at the family level, at the individual level because they are there.
I think that we are too fixed on looking at how we can resolve situations, you are saying you are looking at the grassroots level but I don’t think people are because, even as we speak there are lots and lots of very positive things that have started happening at the grassroots level because when we say we have cultural assets, I am sure I’m losing a lot of people but I think people should start to understand what was the process that took place kuti vanhu vazo svutisana fodya or ukukhumisa umlotha.
There were six stages and if you look at those stages they were justice incorporated. And I think that because we talk about very vague things and very vague ideas, especially when we are outside the country, people are not seeing what is happening on the ground where the whole issue of national healing has to start with our understanding of what it is that we want to heal.
GONDA: Mary, can you comment?
NDLOVU: Yes I’m very happy to hear Amai Holland saying that because some of what she’s been describing is a kind of trouble-shooting of urgent issues that are cropping up but beyond that we will be looking forward to seeing how a national programme can be tied up with a grassroots programme and I agree with her in some places there is positive development in communities where they are starting to look for a way of healing themselves but I think what needs to be done is to link up the whole thing so that the communities can develop their own ideas of what they want. But that can only be plugged into a national programme and we’ll be looking forward very much to see how that can happen, but at the same time, looking for some kind of security sector reform that will go on to make the space open enough to make the people feel free to discuss and move forward.
GONDA: And… (interrupted)
HOLLAND: Violet, MDC has fought to open a democratic space and we have opened it and if people are not willing to actually jump in and also be involved in opening democratic space, this thing will fail! If the grassroots are left to do this fighting on their own in opening democratic space, again it will fail, so I am appealing to the middle class and I am appealing to people in the Diaspora to actually start to talk to the people that they know in Zimbabwe who are affected by this very negative situation that we are coming out of and we are coming out of it.
GONDA: Let me ask Glen Mpani what he thinks about this. Obviously as Amai Holland has told us, the situation has been very difficult and… (interrupted)
HOLLAND : It is very difficult now!
GONDA: So let us just hear from Glen, Amai Holland. Glen, how can the National Healing process be informed by victims and citizens and move away from what many have described as political rhetoric?
MPANI: I think one of the very, very important factors that has been alluded to by Amai Holland about they are envisioning structuring the processes in Zimbabwe is using the grassroots but I think there are a number of issues that I wanted to highlight which should be taken into consideration and I hope that Amai Sekai Holland, through the process that they are going to be going through, they also take cognisance of that.
The first thing is that consulting grassroots, I think there are a number of layers of problems that are likely to take place. One, we should know that there are cases of violence that took place across the political divide so there are victims of violence – of individuals who belong to Zanu-PF, there are victims of violence of individuals who belong to MDC and individuals who don’t even belong to any political structure who were victims of violence from many, many years ago who would want a process of national healing and reconciliation based on their understanding.
The second issue that comes into place is that we cannot have one definition of defining healing and reconciling. People have got different understanding in Zimbabwe of those problems of national healing and reconciliation and Amai Sekai Holland she could even confirm that even among the political parties there are people who view this issue differently.
So you can hold a process of consulting individuals on the ground but through that process you can further divide a nation, so there is need for such a process to be guided by caution to ensure that whatever is going to emerge out of this process is going to achieve the intended benefits. There’s no-one right now, even among ourselves who can tell whether this process is going to get its intended benefits. It’s something that we are going through with commitment that this is going to work.
The other level of problem that I have is that if you look at the debates that are taking place even within the civil society themselves in Zimbabwe – who are some of the major players in issues, there are some who are already proposing that we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Zimbabwe . You ask them to say why do you assume that for Zimbabwe, this is important, they will give you the example of South Africa, they will give you the example of Sierra Leone but looking at those comparative examples of those Truth and Reconciliation Commissions one needs to ask themselves whether they were a success, did they achieve the process of national healing and reconciliation?
So I think what we need to be very careful of is where we do a cut and paste process of borrowing processes and introducing them in Zimbabwe . I was so happy that Amai Holland is talking about the traditional process, it is important but we should be cautious that it has been politicised and we should look at the Rwandan example, where they have used a cultural process, what has been the weakness of that process?
So I think, taking all these issues into consideration, we will be able to allow us to craft a process that is Zimbabwean-oriented and that can allow our people to deal with what happened in the past, but we have to balance the process of getting justice and peace, we can’t forget, forgo either of those processes, we need to balance that and sequence it properly.
GONDA: Now let me go to Mr Bizos. Advocate Bizos, are you still there?
BIZOS: Yes I have been listening to this discussion with interest… (interrupted)
HOLLAND : Excuse me Violet… Violet
GONDA: Amai Holland can you hold on. I want to … (interrupted)
HOLLAND : I think there has been a misunderstanding of what I said because I think that I’m being understood to say we are going to use one method. I said to you we are using an all-inclusive approach and of course the NGOs in Zimbabwe are part of that, the Churches are part, everybody’s a part of that. We are looking at South Africa , we are looking at all of them. I was in Rwanda when Kagame launched Gachacha.We are looking at how we it has developed up totoday. So I am saying to you, we are using an all-inclusive process where everybody will sit as an equal partner to tell us which way to go as Zimbabweans. We are using our cultural assets because we want our own thing but it cannot overlook what has happened in other countries, in Africa , in Asia , in Europe , we are going to be looking at that. We are already looking at that in the internet.
GONDA: Ok so let’s hear from Advocate Bizos to find out the lessons learnt from the South African experience. Now Advocate, on the issue of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is there merit for that in Zimbabwe in your view?
BIZOS: I think that each country where there has been this trauma over a number of years and where there has been conflict, they are the best people to decide how they want to do it, but what should be taken into consideration is this – that to say let us forgive and forget is easy to say. Yes, it may be easier to forgive but very difficult to forget. One of the results of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is that there were denials. The regime said that there were no hit squads. The people said yes there must have been hit squads because the leaders of the liberation movement were killed within the country and in the neighbouring countries and in the rest of Africa where they had taken refuge.
The attitude of the regime was ‘let us start with a clean slate’. The contrary view was well let’s write on the slate what happened and once we have written it then we can try and deal with it but we can’t really reconcile unless there are admissions and an acceptance of the wrongs that have been done. Now I don’t know whether the Zimbabwean people will try and reconcile among themselves without a historical record coming into being as a result of a body appointed by their parliament. And you know the judicial process can’t solve these problems but there is an element which helps reconciliation if the victim and the perpetrator face one another before an amnesty committee where they say what they have done and why they did it. The victims very often find it easier to forgive under those circumstances, particularly if regret is expressed and some sort of restitution extended. This has been our experience.
I hope that the people of Zimbabwe who deserve to become reconciled and united and bring about prosperity in their country will find the best possible way that they can in order to achieve that result. Amnesties differ from countries in the South American states, in the Asian states, in the African states but they do have a common factor and that is that people realise that what wrong has been done to them should not be perpetuated and that civil war or something similar should continue. Having a proper structure and I hear about the historical agreement that has been spoken of and I hope that it works. People have got to work hard at it; they don’t have to necessarily follow the South African example.
GONDA: If I may stay with you Advocate, as we’ve been talking about in this discussion and also many people have been asking the question that we’ve asked earlier on – asking who should drive a process of national healing and reconciliation and should it be the politicians, who are in this case compromised and likely to craft a process that best serves their political ends and pushes for impunity. Now from your…
HOLLAND : (laughing in the background) Violet haaiti…
BIZOS: Yes I can hear you.
GONDA: Now from your experience with the TRC , what would you do differently if you were given a second chance and perhaps this would also help the people in Zimbabwe ?
BIZOS: A political settlement is absolutely necessary and a settlement in good faith among politicians who as a result of a common patriotism want to get things right in their country. That’s a prerequisite. The structures that we have established in amnesty committees, presided over by judges or people of some legal training, in order to hear the admissions and give an opportunity of the victims to face the perpetrators, we consider to be a necessity.
There are complaints and they are justifiable complaints that it not go far enough. We have examples of a police officer that was responsible for the deaths of about 15 or 16 people in a community – coming in to ask for amnesty and actually going to do work within that community in order to appease them and in order to do justice to them.
It depends on the sort of structure that is established and I think some sort of structure has to be established. I have heard that the communities will start talking to one another. Yes people within a divided community must start talking but they require, I think, some sort of structure in order to control the dialogue between them and offer some sort of apology, some sort of a solution, some sort of compensation for loss in order for the process to work.
GONDA: Right. Let me go to Mary Ndlovu. From your work with victims on the ground, do Zimbabweans feel that the inclusive government is serious in dealing with human rights violations committed in the past?
NDLOVU: Well unfortunately we haven’t seen the inclusive government showing very much unity yet. We hope that might come. Certainly there’s a suggestion on the MDC side that they’re serious about dealing with the violations. It is unfortunate that the GPA only talks about political violence because a lot of the violence against Zimbabwean people has actually been economic violence – causing their poverty, their lives to deteriorate to a level of misery almost. So we’d also like to see that dealt with and we hope that will be able to be dealt with somehow.
But we are prepared to work hard. As WOZA Women we have already started working on discussion and trying to inform ourselves as to what can be done and we’ll be certainly looking forward to a programme coming from government that we can link into and feed our concerns into them and hope that they also provide these structures that Advocate Bizos is talking about. But the structures, I think the important thing is that the structures themselves also be informed by what comes from the ground and that there be a process of dialogue there before anything is actually settled on.
GONDA: Still on you Mary, in the current context in Zimbabwe , do you think it is possible to balance peace and justice?
NDLOVU: Well that’s always a conundrum – which comes first? I think the justice we’ll probably have to wait for quite a while. Probably the peace has to come first and the whole process will be very gradual because in terms of peace, we really have to deal with the security sector somehow so that the abuses stop. How can we really get justice if the abuses are still continuing? It’s going to be very difficult. So it’s not something that’s going to happen tomorrow or next week, it’s something that’s going to happen over a period of months and probably even years. But we’re hopeful that something will come out of it.
GONDA: Glen – there are some who have said that in 1980 Ian Smith and others should have been put on trial to send a message to future leaders that if this happened again, this would not be allowed. What are your thoughts on this?
MPANI: I think there is merit in looking at it from that perspective but if you look at it in the context to say they should have been put on trial, I think that in 1980 there were also political concerns that they were dealing with in relation to the Lancaster House Agreement. And they were forced to take a decision within that context to say; because we want the country to move on we are going to take these hard choices. And I think over and above from that period I think a culture of impunity has been created into the Zimbabwean political space.
And I think what we now need to look at is to say, based on all those developments coming to, to this period that we are in right now, are we going to be taking such a choice to say that in the event that there’s a political crisis – are we going to be taking a choice where we just give amnesty willy-nilly? Or we are going to look at options that Advocate Bizos has been talking about to say there can be conditional amnesty where we need to know what really happened.
Because the real story of what happened since 1960, the Matabeleland massacre, we don’t know some of these issues and I think it is important, not only for the healing process but for posterity so that we understand what went on and what has been happening in the country. And worse enough coming to 2000 to 2008 with the closure of the media, I think we need to know what was happening in the different parts of the country. We’ve got places where things happened that we’ve not been able to know and I think it’s important just to get to know all these issues and put them in the public domain.
GONDA: Mai Holland, at what point in the process does the issue of amnesty come in to play?
HOLLAND: Actually the way the discussion is taking place seems to ignore the fact that most of the MDC leadership has suffered from some of the worst violence, physically, mentally and in every way and it seems that now, when we have got where we think we can all go in and fight to open the democratic space and bring the changes that could get us to where we want, we are now again being seen as having done something wrong.
Nobody at all has discussed amnesty! I have said and I would like to repeat we are going to actually ensure that what Zimbabweans set up and what Zimbabweans get to work on together come up with what we then see as something we agree upon. We can’t, as the three Ministers start off by saying there’s going to be amnesty, there’s not going to be amnesty. I think what I also need to say very quickly which we seem to be misunderstanding is that the Global Political Agreement came about because MDC made a decision that getting inside at this stage was the only non-violent, the only viable, non-violent route that was in our face, that’s why we took that. We would like to really make people understand that for us in MDC , saying that we are not going to use violence means just that and that we are buying peace by demonstrating at every stage that we are going to use peaceful methods to stop violence.
GONDA: I don’t think anyone has said you have done anything wrong as the MDC and correct me if I’m wrong but…
HOLLAND: You are saying we are compromised politicians, all those things which really does not understand that the MDC in going in this Agreement, it was for us a big sacrifice of ourselves because in the situation we were in, everything was as it was and we knew we could be killed the next day – and the fact that each day we go and fight and we get a bit more inch of space, more democratic space, surely is enough to inspire Zimbabweans to understand what it is we are trying to say and get involved because the involvement of everybody is what will give us what we want.
MPANI: Can I just say something Violet? Amai Holland, I get what you are saying, but as you get into a very sensitive matter like this one of national healing and reconciliation which is equally important to even providing food on the table in the Zimbabwean context, there’s going to be both criticism and support in this process. And I think it is important – you have been mentioning in a number of instances to say the Diaspora should support you, it is very commendable what Amai Holland and her colleagues are trying to do in terms of the process of national healing and reconciliation – but I think it’s going to be a highly contentious process, where there is going to be a lot of criticism and that criticism should be taken in the context that each and everyone would want the best process to emerge out of this process.
And I think that some of the things I am getting from Amai Holland are more or less like they have tried so much – we know they have been in the terrain for a long time, they have endured so much from what Zanu-PF has been doing on them. But I think it also important to look at this criticism not necessarily as retrogressive or as criticism that is trying to destroy this process because the moment we do that we are going to shut out a certain level, a certain class of individuals who might want to contribute to the process but simply because they feel that their views are taken to trying to derail the process, this in itself might actually be one of the hindrances of the process.
So this is all I want to say to Amai Holland that it’s important that they take every idea on board – and the people in the Diaspora, in all intents and purposes, they don’t mean badly. I would not want to give myself the responsibility to speak on their behalf but some of the criticism that they give in terms of these processes, is simply because they want to go home, they are not seeing the indications that there is sincerity on the part of the political players in Zimbabwe . So it’s very difficult to convince them from the basis to simply say there is change that is going to be taking place and then in a couple of days hear cases of violence taking place all over the country. It’s very difficult to be talking about national healing and reconciliation in such a context. So their words should match with what is happening on the ground.
GONDA: Mary, do you have anything to add on this issue and on what Amai Holland has said that there’s this unfair criticism on the MDC and that the MDC has really tried very hard to actually change the situation in the country. What can you say about that?
NDLOVU: Well, I think it’s fair enough; a lot of people have been very sceptical and with reason but I think what we feel is that somebody had to try to do something, we couldn’t go on the way we were, and we had to make some kind of effort to solve the problems as Zimbabweans. It’s certainly, as Amai Holland says, it’s not easy and it’s not going to be easy. But when it comes to looking to the future, my only concern, or one of the concerns I find is that people are worried that there might be too much emphasis on reconciliation, this forgive and forget idea and not enough on the fact that we must end this impunity. Crimes have been committed, very serious crimes over a long period of time and somebody must be held to account. Those people who have committed them must face the people, their victims and account to them and in some way somebody has to be punished and the victims have to be compensated so we’d like to see a process where it’s multi-faceted, we don’t just concentrate on getting along with each other but we have to deal with the past in order to go into the future in a positive way.
GONDA: Your final thoughts Advocate Bizos?
BIZOS: We considered, and there were many South Africans who believed the criminal trial was necessary to punish perpetrators. A choice had to be made. If one side insist that members of the other side have to be brought to the criminal court and punished you are not likely to persuade their supporters that, that is a viable solution. Very often the compromise that is necessary in order to create unity is necessary and however strong the calls for justice, punishing the guilty, may be one that we have to understand. In fact the reconciliation route, unsatisfactory as it may be is the better route to follow. I don’t know if they insisted in 1980 that Ian Smith should go on trial whether there would have been a settlement. I don’t know whether there is a possibility of the settlement which has been entered into in Zimbabwe will succeed if one or other side insists that there should be criminal trials and that people should be punished, they should be jailed, they should be directed to pay compensation. It’s going to probably spoil the attempts at reconciliation and peace being brought to the country.
GONDA: And your thoughts, your final words Amai Holland?
HOLLAND : I want to thank the panellists for their suggestions, they are excellent, they will be very helpful and I’m comforted that the criticisms are not ones that are already lumping us as the enemy. That they’re really meant to bring us good ideas but what I’d like to say to the people even that are listening is that we’ve received very few submissions from people. The ones that we have received are excellent, from NGOs, from individuals, at home, in the Diaspora and if we had more, the quality of the work we produce will depend on the quantity and with the participation of Zimbabweans at home, in the Diaspora and from friends of Zimbabwe who have been working in this area for a long time. And I just want to say to everybody listening, if you don’t participate, the quality of the product is not going to be as good as you wish.
GONDA: Can you just help our listeners and readers with the details as to how they can contact you, where they can send their submissions?
HOLLAND : I think that we’ve got offices now. They are on the 9th floor, Clubs Chambers, Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare .
GONDA: Is there an email?
HOLLAND : email – we don’t have an email yet but everybody knows my email: firstname.lastname@example.org But we need really for people to write. Unfortunately the criticisms that are made are verbal; we need people to send written submissions because every submission really qualitatively improves our product.
MPANI: Glen, final word?
MPANI: My final word to Amai Holland is that I’m going to take her on her word and will do as much as possible to assist in any way possible and provide them with comparative examples of any processthat Zimbabweans would have opted to craft and I hope that they are going to maintain their stance of listening to the voice of people on the ground and the victims because ultimately that is very, very crucial and important in terms of moving forward.
GONDA: Mary Ndlovu?
NDLOVU: I’d like to assure Amai Holland that WOZA Women will be in the process of discussing and compiling their views and we will make sure that she receives it. We welcome the opportunity to make an input.
GONDA: I’d like to thank distinguished South African human rights advocate George Bizos, Amai Sekai Holland who is Minister of State responsible for National Healing and Reconciliation, Glen Mpani the Regional Co-ordinator for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Mary Ndlovu a social justice activist. Thank you for participating on the programme Hot Seat.
Holland ,Mpani,Ndlovu: Thank you.
BIZOS: Thank you and I wish the people of Zimbabwe well.
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