The three leaders of the government of Zimbabwe last week embarked on an attempt to coax Zimbabweans into national healing while government agents continue to abuse and harm the people for their political beliefs.
Mugabe issued a proclamation designating three days of last weekend as days to mark “the dedication of national healing”.
I hope it will not evolve into another holiday on the calendar. This is serious staff.
Church groups, traditional leaders and spirit mediums are reported to have led rituals all in the name of national healing.
The process was led by the three signatories of the unity government: Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
It was reported that the colourful ceremony was witnessed by over 300 delegates who included legislators, civic organisations, diplomats, academics and faith-based organisations, among others.
Leaders of various church denominations, traditional leaders and other groups led their followers into observing the national dedication to the national healing process.
There are three ministers responsible for Reconciliation and National Healing, which is under Robert Mugabe’s office.
There is Sekai Holland from Tsvangirai’s MDC; there is Gibson Sibanda from Mutambara’s MDC and then there is John Nkomo from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.
These three head the so-called Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration.
ZANU-PF, as the chief perpetrator of violence, murder, sleaze, corruption and abductions, is promoting the idea that emphasis must be on forgiveness not justice.
What a waste of people’s time!
This is a serious undertaking and one which must not be used for political mileage, as Mugabe is clearly trying to do.
Indeed, as preparations for this charade were in swing last week, a 31-year-old MDC activist, Ebba Katiyo, was brutally assaulted by ZANU-PF militias who accused her of supporting the MDC.
She was taken to a Harare hospital semi-conscious.
And while the three leaders were on the podium, “launching” the three days of national healing, the mother of a top MDC official based in Harare was savagely beaten over the head with an iron bar and left for dead.
Reports say Mrs Mlilo is now receiving treatment at a private hospital in Harare, with her injuries so serious she received 25 stitches to her head.
Mrs Mlilo’s son, Nqobizitha Mlilo, is top aide to Finance Minister Tendai Biti. Biti himself received a bullet in an envelope with a note urging him to sort out his estate.
National healing, indeed!
The hypocrisy of the unity government cannot escape my attention and the MDC is slowly being dragged into a morass of violent political intrigue from which they will be hard pressed to escape.
Mugabe, who claims to have “degrees in violence”, cannot, surely, be in the forefront of reconciliation and of efforts to heal the nation.
The fact that Mugabe refuses to disband his militias, who continue to terrorise the nation while Mugabe and Tsvangirai joke about national healing, is testimony to the dangerous insincerity being manipulated here.
It is a clear indication to Mugabe’s intentions.
Even his speech at the launch of the ceremony was shamelessly void of truth and credibility.
“The love that we have for each other, the bond of unity that we seek to establish between and amongst ourselves should create a great oneness amongst us, greater unity,” Mugabe said.
Only a week earlier did Mugabe say that “we” must not behave like donkeys. He was indirectly referring to Tsvangirai whom he accused of conniving with the British.
So much for the love they have for each other.
Be that as it may, for Zimbabweans to heed the call for forgiveness and embrace national healing, a lot must change. The violence must stop.
Restoration of Human Rights (ROHR), a Zimbabwean pressure group, is horrified by this blatant effort to fool the people, saying that for peace to prevail, in any given nation, the state should be totally transformed into a safe house for every individual.
“Peace, in its totality, is a function of political will and maturity on those who are holding public office and the people of Zimbabwe at large, believing that proper mechanisms of truth and reconciliation have been met,” said ROHR in a widely distributed statement.
“Only after those who were grieved acknowledge that restorative measures have been done and those who would have committed acts to terror acknowledging that they violated other people’s rights could peace as a concept be fully recognized. Mr. Mugabe cannot be the agitator of violence and define peace at the same time, as if he holds the rod of making the rule as he goes.”
On his part, Tsvangirai said national healing cannot occur without justice and justice must be done.
“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,” he said.“There can be no truth without justice. And no justice without truth.”
But words never moved Mugabe before and Tsvangirai’s pragmatism will, in the end, be his worst enemy, unappreciated and taken advantage of by Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s failure to contain Mugabe is slowly exasperating people now and that’s exactly what Mugabe is counting on. Elections are looming.
Tsvangirai must know and accept that this is bare-knuckle politics, not a diplomatic contest where people are bombarded with meaningless rhetoric and applause.
How can anyone be forgiven when they have neither admitted to any wrongdoing nor asked for forgiveness?
Up to this day, from the Matabeleland and Midlands massacres through to the murder, rape and abductions of MDC supporters, Mugabe and his cronies have never admitted to any wrongdoing, let alone ask for forgiveness.
And yet the abuse of citizens continues and the harassment of MDC legislators is intensifying with about seven MDC MPs waiting for court appearances on trumped up charges. Mugabe is clearly trying to wipe away the MDC’s slim parliamentary majority but locking up MDC MPs.
On national healing and reconciliation, the MDC must remember that it too does not have the authority to forgive Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Only the people can do that.
The people who were wronged, whose mothers and sisters were raped and starved to death, the people whose husbands and sons were murdered and who were made to disappear and the people who lost their loved ones, property, limbs and spent time in jail on trumped up charges are the ones to forgive but only if and when they learn the truth about what happened.
There has to be some closure first and closure comes from listening to a confession and having painful questions answered.
Forgiveness cannot be demanded, legislated or forced but can only be earned; it is a serious, slow process that cannot be dealt with by proclaiming a few days of national healing. It is in the heart, not on the calendar.
The three days of national healing were an insult and Mr Tsvangirai must not have allowed himself to be used in such a manner.
This is a serious undertaking, one that cannot be accomplished without proper planning with the people concerned.
There is a process to be followed.
Apart from regret and repentance, forgiveness is influenced by a hope and belief that the offense will not be repeated.
There cannot be any shortcut to reconciliation and forgiveness. The issue must be approached with the seriousness and sensitivity it deserves and not be used to cover up as Mugabe is clearly trying to do.
Closure must come first. The truth must be laid out in the open first. Only when people know all they need to know can they then try to forgive, but not necessarily forget.