Rule of Law Crucial To National Healing – Tsvangirai

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the National Dedication Programme Towards Healing, Reconcilliation and Intergration, Tsvangirai said:  "As a nation we cannot hope to promote equality, national healing, cohesion and unity while abusing the rule of law, ignoring the right to free political activity, freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression and communication."

Tsvangirai urged leaders to ensure that there is no cover-up of past wrongs as they owed it to the many thousands of victims to ensure that the programme of National Healing was effective in addressing past wrongs in order to move towards a future of peace and prosperity. He added that national healing could not occur without justice.

"These three days of dedication must herald the beginning of a genuine, open and frank process that includes and incorporates the concept of transitional justice, truth and accepting responsibility for the hurt and pain inflicted upon so many Zimbabweans. There can be no truth without justice. And no justice without truth," he said.

He accused the state media of propagating hate speech and political divisions through the publishing of blatant lies and deliberate distortions.

"Will government institutions act with impartiality, openness and accountability and will the police serve to protect the people rather than persecute them?", he asked. "This will be the ultimate test of whether, today we are embarking on this process in a genuine attempt to address and right the wrongs of the past, or whether we are merely trying to pay lip service to the ideals of National Healing without taking responsibility for our actions," he said.

"The Organ for National Healing has been charged with undertaking a process of grassroots consultation, together with civil society, to define the form and content of our restorative programme. It must be the people that define the period of time to be reviewed in our National Healing programme.

"Zimbabwe has suffered so many phases of trauma, upheaval and conflict that there must be agreement on defining the scope of the healing process. We cannot attempt to address one period of conflict to the exclusion of others. If this process is going to lead towards genuinely healing our nation, we must be inclusive in the scope of the programme," he said.

He urged his fellow leaders to must make an unequivocal call to all our peoples and to all our supporters for an immediate cessation of violence, persecution and lawlessness iIf the days of National Dedication are to herald the start of a genuine process of National Healing.

"As I stand here today, a young woman lies in hospital in Harare after having been brutally assaulted merely for being a member of a political party. Sadly, this is not an isolated case. We cannot begin a healing process while simultaneously allowing the perpetuation of injustice and a culture of persecution and impunity," he said.

The three leaders of the Global Political Agreement, namely Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara appointed three ministers representing each party to spearhead the national healing process in the country. These are Sekai Holland from Tsvangirai’s MDC, John Nkomo of Zanu PF and Gibson Sibanda of the Mutambara’s MDC.

Nkomo said earlier this week the programme from Friday to Sunday would focus on prayer, ahead of a more extensive reconciliation scheme still being developed. Holland said the programme was kicking off with incidents of violence still taking place.