ZIMBABWE: Women Call for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

By Ntandoyenkosi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG, May 15 (IPS) – Women’s rights groups have urged the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Zimbabwe as part of bringing to justice people who committed human rights violations – including sexual abuse against women – during the run-up to a second-round presidential vote in June 2008.

Zimbabwe witnessed some of its worst-ever political violence after then-opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai failed to achieve the margin required to take power in a first round of balloting. Tsvangirai eventually pulled out of the June ballot, citing state–sponsored attacks against his supporters, leaving incumbent president Robert Mugabe as sole candidate.

The election was widely condemned, and a political stalemate was eventually resolved when rival parties signed a Global Political Agreement (GPA) establishing a government of national unity.

“Any transitional process will not be effective unless it addresses the issues raised by those affected. Attempts of national healing and reconciliation without (justice) provide a short-lived remedy to conflict,” said Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) chair Emilia Muchawa.

WCoZ also called on Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to pressure the unity government of Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to uphold a regional protocol on gender.

SADC heads of state and government signed the protocol on gender and development in Johannesburg in 2008. The protocol represents a significant commitment to the empowerment of women, the elimination of discrimination and the achievement of gender equality and equity.

Muchawa was speaking at the launch in Johannesburg of a documentary on violence against women in Zimbabwe on May 13. The documentary, titled “Hear Us – Zimbabwean Women Affected by Political Violence Speak Out” was launched with an accompanying report titled, “Putting it Right: Addressing Human Rights Violations Against Zimbabwean Women”.

The film gives detailed accounts and footage of how women were beaten, tortured and raped during the violence that engulfed Zimbabwe before the June vote.

Widespread sexual violence

Women’s groups estimate that more than 2000 women may have been raped between May and June last year.

In one of the most painful moments captured in the documentary a woman identified only as Memory recounts how she was gang-raped by militia from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party at torture camp in rural Zimbabwe.

“When I arrived at the base, they removed all my clothes and I was raped by three men, one after the other,” Memory says in the documentary. She added that after the rape she attempted to file a report with the police who however declined to accept her statement.

“We are not dealing with political violence cases. The time will come when we will deal with them,” Memory recollects one police officer telling her.

The documentary was produced by the WCoZ working in collaboration with the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), a non-governmental organisation based in Harare working on providing specialist assistance in research and advocacy in the field of human rights, democracy and governance.

Women have been calling on parties to the inclusive government to institute a truth and reconciliation commission, TRC, similar to that set up in South Africa to expose apartheid-era crimes, to examine the violence before and after the president run-off.

“We urge the Zimbabwean government to incorporate all signed human rights instruments relating to women into domestic law; particularly the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Also we urge the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ensure the Zimbabwe government implements the GPA and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development’,” said Kudakwashe Chitsike, a women rights activist with RAU.

Will the call be heeded?

Reached by phone in Harare for his response to the call for a truth and reconciliation commission, Zimbabwe Justice Minister and Zanu-PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa told IPS, “In that regards we (unity government) have set-up an Organ of National Healing headed by three ministers from all parties, Minister John Nkomo (ZANU-PF), Minister Sekai Holland (MDC-T) and Minister Gibson Sibanda (MDC-M).

“These ministers are working on all issues related to Justice, Reconciliation and national healing. And it will be up them to see if such a commission is necessary or not. We will hear from them.”

Holland, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office responsible for National Healing and Reconciliation told IPS, “We are going to do what the people of Zimbabwe want. They will tell us what they want us to do and we will do it. If they are demanding reconciliation commission that brings to trial individuals who committed human rights offenses we are going to set it up.”

WCoZ called on SADC, which brokered the GPA, to pressure the Harare government to implement the power-sharing agreement in full including clauses underpinning women’s rights.

“We urge the Zimbabwean government to adhere to the GPA particularly by; returning to the rule of law, bringing all the perpetrators of violence to book, ensure that there is no discrimination based on gender.”, Muchawa said.

The women’s coalition emphasises that regional governments should also lean on Harare to incorporate the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development into Zimbabwean law.


One thought on “ZIMBABWE: Women Call for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation”

  1. Yes Prof, Zimbabwe is a mess and similar to all faeild African states, is one were the blame is not squarely on incompetent political leadership (Robert Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki included) but a reluctance of African people’s to face hard facts and truths. Note however, that, what is happening in Zimbabwe is history in the making, which I feel that Africa at large is failing to grasp. As one person so equivocally put it, it is a new and will, be a continuous movement for a democratic change and an advancement of the ordinary peoples, but most importantly it is the beginning of the end and collapse of the old liberation movements (Zanu PF, Swapo, Kanu, ANC and Frelimo) into the new dispersion of a new leadership and ideology which answers and deals with situations on facts, rather than dwelling on conspiracies, hidden forces or that ever present third force. Leadership that can realise and call events as they are, rather than keeping quiet and hoping for the best? We so-called born-frees grew up under an education system where we were taught from a viewpoint that aimed to perpetuate a distorted and racist argument , which inclined us to believe and see everything foreign, as disdain and undesirable, as a plot, by the former colonists to re-colonise ‘us’. While I understand that history has to be rewritten from the victim’s point of view what I disagree with is that it must/has to be largely biased towards the victims. [Such as South Africans refusing to acknowledge that when the NP first came into power the vast majority of the electorate (i.e. the white minority) voted against the party and its polices]. The scenario in what is happening in the world stage in connection to Zimbabwe is just a side issue. What should be realised however is that a new movement away from this ideological base is slowly taking place. Although at the present moment it may seem as if the people of Zimbabwe are helpless, but inwardly they are like a ‘wave which starts way out in the ocean and gathers momentum from resistance, changing the course of history which will lead into a huge switch of power’. It does not matter that the opposition MDC got some of its facts wrong, quarreled internally, had some unattractive allies and seemed rubble-like and disorganised; it will end with the unthinkable…a liberation party losing power! Of importance however is that this is (or will be) a journey for the whole of Africa. And like all journeys it will bring us face to face with ourselves. One liberation party is on its way out, I ask which one is next……the ANC? I say this because the ANC (like the current ZANU PF party) is so sanctimonious about the white apartheid government and the years gone by. ‘They are systematically allowing the powerhouse of Africa descend into yet another African basket case’. When we see convicted criminals entering prisons as heroes (think Tony Yegeni), when we see democratic institutions been disbanded due to fallacious reasons (think of the Scorpions), when courageous law enforcement officers are encouraged to leave office (think McCarthy) and a President who (admittedly unproven) is guilty of corruption is to become the defector President they comes a realization that the only difference between South Africa and Zimbabwe is time.

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