Restorative Justice a Must
Sundayopinion: Restorative justice a must
Sunday, 22 August 2010 18:46
THERE is lingering talk about forgiveness, healing, truth and
reconciliation, all centred around the violent nature of politics that has
defined Zimbabwe's elections especially in the past decade.
This politically-motivated violence has been widely documented with people
whose homes were burnt, members of their families killed during orgies of
violence rightly complaining that the perpetrators are still walking the
length and breadth of our scorched country as free men.
As Zimbabwe approaches another election within the next two years, the
violence that has come to characterise political campaigns is already being
reported, this time inspired by the constitution outreach programme, and
this without any efforts having been made to "make peace" with aggrieved
victims of past political violence. It is within that scope that this
country has placed itself on the path of cyclical violence with perpetrators
rightly knowing that nothing will happen to them.
After all it is quite straight forward: if you go unpunished for a perceived
crime, what will stop you from repeating it? Talk about literally getting
away with murder; Zimbabwe presents scholars with innumerable case studies!
And we have seen it since 1980 with the Gukurahundi massacres as known
architects and the foot soldiers who caused this mayhem have never been
taken to task about their role. Issues around forgiveness and healing are
likely to elude us as long as there is no political commitment on the part
of the leaders who presided over the killing and torture of innocents, and
we are guaranteed that angry emotions will be part of our individual and
collective psyche for a long time to come.
I listened to a man who all along had been enjoying his beer until someone
muttered something about the futility of a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission and something about how the dead must be left to bury the dead.
The man literally wept, saying he never knew his father as he was killed
during Gukurahundi and - while he had been enjoying the beer among them -
said how much he hated the Shona. Everyone went silent, for how would anyone
pacify a man who has so much anger in him?
This is a guy who walks and talks each day as if everything is normal but
deep down hidden from the rest of us, he harbours and carries such hate and
This becomes a strong case for open discussion of the evil that was spawned
by political violence and the need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
so people can move on with their lives.
Yet some people in their wisdom think the past can take care of itself by
natural processes of time and have been arrogant and dismissive of calls for
a naming and shaming of people behind the raping and killing of wives and
mothers since independence.
The question for many is that what really can be expected from the people
who are accused of heinous political crimes and still control state
apparatus that would in essence be in charge of letting the law take its
So does the nation wait for that epoch when they are no longer in government
and then they are tracked and shot down like rabid dogs?
But then some will argue that this goes against the principles of
restorative justice but conforms with the dictates of vengeance instead.
Thus, justice must be delivered in the here and now so that victims like the
man cited above may know peace in their hearts. African politicians have
tended to exhibit traits that seek to place them above the moral barometer
of ordinary beings as they use both illiterates and the literati commit the
basest crimes, then turn around and say the charges are all conspiracies by
political opponents. Charles Taylor, Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin, Baby Doc
Duvalier - all their stories read the same and the tragedy is that even as
we journey into the 21st century, we find ourselves having to make the same
excuses made by these evil black brothers.
It is invariably always someone else who is not in power who is blamed for
But with the nature of Zimbabwe's politics whose popularity contests have
largely been defined by clubs and cudgels as weapons of persuasion we are,
no doubt, in for another round of calls for national healing after lives
have already been lost when all this can be averted by heeding the calls for
restorative justice. - Kubatana.net