Zimbabwe: Finding Our Way to National Healing

17 April 2019
opinion

When you start a healing journey, you start by reviving your pain. It's normal and many a time you don't want anyone to understand or to tell you they understand how you feel.

Effectively, if your pain or bitterness can reach or enable your adversary to appreciate your most hurt feelings in a value-based soothing and transformative way, then the healing journey that you walk sometimes using agreed constitutional frameworks or seemingly inhibited or detoured by institutional gridlocks is surely going to zone you with lasting peace and reconciliation.

An illustrative oration is usually used using an empty clean bottle to represent a bruised or wounded person. The person grappling with bitterness or pain is counselled (I deliberately avoid the word advised to avoid spiritualised ruminations) to put some water and soil into the container, shake the contents and allow them to form a dirty mixture.

The shaking and steadying of the container is simply used to illustrate the cycle of temporary healing and recollected bitterness in the person seeking healing.

With time, the person is asked to find their own way to forget the "soil and water" ingredients which makes the water unsafe or unclean. They, with insight, foresight or benefits of hindsight, pour out the contents, rinse the container, and put clean, safe and potable water to epitomise the need for total healing.

At national level, we have learnt how Rwanda has just shown that it is greatly moving towards social unity and cohesion, 25 years after the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsi-Hutu impasse is gently being replaced with a move away from tremors of ethnic revenge to pulses of national oneness.

Thanks to the guarded political will to build a united Rwanda under President Paul Kagame as well as financial and political assistance from members of the family of nations, Rwanda is fast becoming an economic powerhouse and stable polity.

Zimbabwe has recently been taking a leaf from Rwanda especially through economic and political diplomacy. We saw that President Kagame graced the inauguration of President Mnangagwa and Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe have been encouraged to go back home under the "Go, see and report back" policy.

The United Nations has also moved to encourage states not to accept refugees who use the 1994 genocide to leave Rwanda. The underlying masonry is that Rwanda has left the steep slope of conflict and is now at the zenith of social cohesion and unity.

Those who have read the speech of President Kagame on the commemoration of 25 years after the Rwandan genocide have doubtlessly rubbed their shoulders with political maturity and political will to build a united and optimistic Rwanda that strongly fights to combat ethnic differences and secure a happy future. Healing after ethnic or religious conflicts has been elusive in many countries: Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Myanmar, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Burundi, and recently Cameroon (where Anglophone and Francophone differences are tearing the social fabric).

But increasing political will is showing how some political leaders in the affected countries are serving both as voices of vision and social reality. For Zimbabwe, the Independence Day on 18 April must call us to reflect on the gains of national unity and cohesion. We have a rare occasion to celebrate together the gains of the liberation struggle, the struggle which we embedded and emboldened in our Constitution as a founding value and principle.

Through actions such as the operationalisation of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) by President Mnangagwa, institutionalisation of social unity and cohesion arouses the voice which shuns the need for others to "feel the pain". The voice is beyond emotional scars, physical bruises, and horrific memories.

Peace, perfect peace, speaks to the beauty of reconciliation and invites us to the world of justice in its variegated forms; transitional, transformative, restorative, compensatory and distributive. And inasmuch as we struggle with tribal differences, political impasses, institutional indifferences and individual musings on everything we call disordered, we must build on the newness of politics and constitutional engagements currently obtaining at the moment.

We can be divided into a triangle of politicians, private citizens and civil society; the mid-line institutions: the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, NPRC, Zimbabwe Media Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the zones and the zones of spiritualised peace: faith-based organisations, schools, traditional leaders, and so forth.

The voice on permanent peace must come to us whenever we try to shift the blame, overstep our institutional mandates, or drive home our own opinions on how Zimbabwe can move forward as a united force. If you read "Do Zimbabweans Exist?" you feel the San people want healing as they are considered the first occupiers of this land.

If you read works by transitional justice practitioners or some human rights organisations such as Zimbabwe NGO Forum, you discover that Zimbabweans want healing to start from the wrongs during the pre-colonial States such as Mapungubwe, Great Zimbabwe, Mutapa, Torwa, Rozvi and Ndebele State.

Some would want to go as far back as the colonial period between 1896 and 1980. Others would want to focus on the early years of independence on events such as the two Entumbane Uprisings and Gukurahundi. Others would want to focus on the turn of the millennium and events such as the Fast Track Land Reform Programme and Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina. Still others would want to focus on election-related events such as the June-2008 presidential runoff or the August 1, 2018 events.

Others may opt to focus on disaster and risk management following the damaging effects of cyclones, especially Cyclone Idai or relocations in areas such as Chingwizi, Marange, and so on. Some would look at human-wildlife conflict or damaging violence caused by petitioners who fail to petition or demonstrate peacefully as contemplated by the Constitution.

But we remember that key developments are happening because of healing. The NPRC, seized with matters of national healing is carrying out public dialogues aimed at bringing closure to events such as Gukurahundi. Government is seized with the cases on compensating Gukurahundi victims and former White commercial farmers.

We have learnt through media monitoring that plans are underway to compensate families of the six victims who died during August 1, 2018 events and those who were wounded are also going to be assisted.

While the NPRC has a lifespan given by the Constitution, we must look beyond that. I believe President Mnangagwa and his Government do understand that peace is not ephemeral. Reconciliation is not intermittent. And healing remains permanent.

Yes the picture we get of the NPRC or healing, peace and reconciliation is relayed to us through the lens of the Grundnorm, the Constitution. But because the Constitution is our political and social roadmap, we get a pointer of the need for lasting healing: peace which surpasses institutional lifespans; rewarding, predictable, and "touched" healing if I may employ the humanising lexical imperatives of healing from the Shona indigenous language.

We have followed national dialogues; faith-led political engagements, united efforts to disaster responses, publicisation of Government's efforts on dealing with endemic conflicts. We may have pockets of distrust on how certain issues aimed at healing must be done that is normal and is highly reflective of the unity in diversity we clamour for as Zimbabweans.

Whether we should support or critique each other's approach to healing, we mustn't be motivated by flighty emotions. We can negotiate like children; throw tantrums, cry foul, play the jealous mistress, or soldierly cling to our toys; that art of negotiation is still considered effective in the same way building golden bridges thorough "wisdom in adultism" is venerated.

Sharon Hofisi is a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. He writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]

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