Zimbabwe: little hope for reconciliation

AS Zimbabwe prepares for more elections in 2011, few expect anything other than a repeat of the previous ballot that saw murder and widespread violence, including the Opposition Leader, Morgan Tsvangirai being publicly beaten.\r\n

Since then, not one person has been held accountable for the deaths or violence and Robert Mugabe has declared that no such trials will take place.

Despite losing the election, ZANU-PF have clung onto power with a coalition between Tsvangirai and Mugabe. As part of the deal between the two, known as the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the country set up a Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration under Opposition Minister, Sekai Holland.

Speaking with New Europe, Ms Holland said that they had completed their National Plan and, “Our role was advisory so we put in place a process of consultations with people, churches, civil society and the diaspora about what would be a good infrastructure for peace.” She said it became clear that they would need a stakeholders’ conference and a document to be drawn up from the conference would be “a covenant” against violence, which would be debated by parliament.

In reality, the consultations have not been harmonious and the Minister has stormed out of meetings, when angry villagers tackled her about the lack of progress. She even threatened to quit at one meeting where her organization was heavily criticised.

“We are trying to discover the root cause of the violent epochs in our society,” she said. She said there were many causes but the GPA was an agreement that gave the country a fresh start. However when it was pointed out that cycles of violence occurred around elections, she said, “Knowing that, I think we also knew when we went into the GPA it was for Zimbabweans to organise free and fair elections.”

Asked if the next elections would be so, she said, “I’m surprised that people don’t give us credit for the progress that has been made. That man has been stopped because of violence, which happens during a transition. We are putting in the mechanisms for free elections”

When asked about the fact that the last few elections were won by the opposition, who failed to take charge, she said, “We are putting in place mechanisms for transferring power,” and the GPA was still holding.

She claimed that there were no mechanisms for transferring power after independence, despite the regular elections. She insisted Zimbabwe was a normal country and criticised Western reporters for their coverage, which she said was too negative. When told that reporting restrictions made journalism difficult, she stated that, “Zimbabwe has no media restrictions.”

She said that the GPA was signed by the opposition, Mugabe and witnesses, adding “In our society, if you make an agreement it is an agreement, so I don’t understand how the West expects people to suddenly get out of the agreement, because for us, this is an agreement and we are going to carry it out.”

Asked if ZANU kept agreements, she said “They haven’t. They’ve been holding power. We have to keep challenging them.” She warned that “If the transition doesn’t work, then we are back to full conflict.”

She stated that there had been progress, albeit on a small scale, and that “Zimbabweans are saying that peace is an option and we have no other choice but to work towards peace.”

She asked the West to open credit lines, saying “we are a mature country and want to be seen as that”. Asked if seeing the leader of the opposition being beaten up on TV was the sign of a mature country, she said, “there are lots of things that happen in your countries in the West that, to us, would be unthinkable. But we really don’t hold that against the West, we just say, ‘that’s how they are’. Asked if she was playing down the assault and just making excuses, she denied it and said they were in a coalition with ZANU and was going to make it work. – NewEurope