Blood is thicker than water Mr President
By Takwana Jonga
Societies emerging from a history of political crimes and other serious human rights violations should instead seek to create a long-term strategy to ensure that the truth is told in public, justice is done and that reparations are paid to all the victims of abuses.
Perhaps Mugabe needs to be told that amnesty on its own is a form of injustice. However, in situations where it cannot be avoided, it is complemented with reparations and closure. In this sense, truth, justice and reparation are three aspects of the struggle against the impunity called amnesty.
By calling for amnesty on those guilty of political violence, Mugabe is subordinating justice to political self-interest, thereby shielding criminal elements who perpetrated violence both on his behalf and as non-state actors sympathetic to Zanu PF.
Justice cannot be politicized because calls for justice are calls for recognition of the misrecognised. There can never be any reconciliation without accountability. Amnesty is problematic because it promotes impunity.
The political violence Zimbabweans encountered during the run-up to the country’s 2008 elections and going back to the Gukurahundi massacres calls for socio-political reform of the former British colony.
Principle VII of the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law explains: “Remedies for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law include the victim’s right to the following as provided for under international law:
(a) Equal and effective access to justice;
(b) Adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered; and
(c) Access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.”
Mugabe’s proposal to forgive political offenders is an attempt for himself and his allies to avoid punishment for past political violence crimes that have blighted Zimbabwe since he took office in 1980.
Politically sanctioned-violence in Zimbabwe is well documented, including the harassment of MDC members and the thorough beating up of Morgan Tsvangirai by the police.
Those who supported the MDC, Human Rights Activists have borne the brunt of organized state-sanctioned political violence since 2000 with several hundreds killed while many more have been displaced by war veterans and youth militia.
The Fifth Brigade which left 20 000 civilians dead in Matabeleland and Midlands areas allegedly reported to Mugabe — as commander-in chief of the Defence Forces.
The application of international law on the Fifth Brigade massacres is clear –– when there are problems in a particular area of the country and you send an army, and that army happens to target civilians –– the regime responsible for the army has committed crimes against humanity which is prosecutable (Geneva Convention of 1948, Additional Article of 1977).
The Fifth Brigade deployed to Matabeleland to hunt down dissident’s targeted civilians. Perhaps the most traumatizing pain among victims and survivors of this “moment of madness” is that no single person has been prosecuted and some of the officers who commanded Fifth Brigade are now seniors in the Zimbabwe National Army.
Apart from the Fifth Brigade crimes, there was the murder of Captain Edwin Nleya in Hwange, the Rashiwe Ghuzha saga, the missing MDC activist Patrick Nabanyama, the murder of Tsvangirai’s aide Tichaona Chiminya and many more others who lost their lives. Some of the people were tortured and left disabled. There is no doubt Zimbabwe is a traumatised nation. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Mugabe is aware of the future ramifications of this kind of actions –– hence he wants amnesty for political crimes without justice for victims.
Without justice, there can never be reconciliation; hence the idea of amnesty is a mockery to victims’ right to demand accountability and reparations. It is of paramount importance that past human rights violations are discussed and justice is done, and that reparations are provided to all the victims instead of Mugabe’s proposed amnesty.
Instead, Mugabe should lobby for the placation of the victims in line with international human rights law. He should ensure that serious violations of international humanitarian law victims are provided with full and effective reparation in its five forms:
(i) Restitution (ii) Compensation (iii) Rehabilitation (iv) Satisfaction and (v) Guarantees of non-repetition.
This can be done through legislative, institutional and other reforms which must be passed to address the causes of the human rights violations. This should include reforming Zimbabwe’s judicial system to ensure that it fully complies with international law.
I have perused through books on transitional and troubled nations and failed to come up with cases where such a scrappy amnesty policy ever worked. Instead, what Mugabe is doing amounts to aggravating the scars created by his regime. The Zimbabwean president’s amnesty proposal is both illegal in terms of international law, and immoral.
This reminds me of what ill-fated Chile’s Augusto Pinochet of Chile did. He signed amnesty into law to cover up for his political crimes before stepping down as the country’s supreme leader — but that amnesty was only in force for a few years before the new government overturned it. The victims sought to confront Pinochet over his years of brutality as leader of the South American nation.
In a perfect world, if Mugabe has nothing to fear, he should institute thorough investigations into allegations of human rights violations which must be undertaken by independent and impartial institutions, which must be granted the necessary authority and resources for their task.
The results of such investigations should be made public to provide a full account of the facts to the victims, their relatives and society as a whole.
So for the President of Zimbabwe to call for amnesty for the perpetrators of violence is a shame and an insult to the whole population that have suffered in the hands of ZANU PF. Members of MDC are being abducted everyday, Human Rights Activists and Gays are being victimised everyday by the same people. So why give ZANU PF amnesty? No, it doesn’t make sense. For those who caused crimes against humanity must be punished according to the law. All over the country there is violence. People are being arrested, tortured for being too vocal at constitution-making outreach meetings all over the country. So what is the point for asking people to participate?
The Zuma administration’s evasive approach to the Zimbabwean political situation continues to raise serious concerns about its political motivations for implicitly condoning President Robert Mugabe’s continually undemocratic behavior.
That the ANC administration has resorted to court action to keep the contents of various reports into the Zimbabwean political situation out of the public domain is a powerful indicator of the government’s determination to keep South Africans in the dark about the scale of Zimbabwe’s plight. The report compiled by Judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe detailing their conclusions about the fairness of Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential election, and the infamous Generals’ Report commissioned by former President Mbeki, are two such examples.
President Zuma’s “smoke and mirrors” approach to Zimbabwe has allowed President Mugabe’s despotic tendencies to flourish and the rights of Zimbabwean citizens to be repeatedly and systematically abused.
The MDC and the Way Forward
The generality of Zimbabweans are disillusioned by the yawning failure of the MDC-T to chart a new way forward for the country that saves the nation from the old politics of patronage and kinship.
In fact, the questionable decision to retain Minister Sekai Holland after her unprecedented insults directed at King Mzilikazi and his followers and notwithstanding her portfolio demonstrates beyond any shadow of doubt that all the hopes that Zimbabweans had on the MDC were totally misplaced.
Although new brooms sweep cleaner, they should be sweeping in the right places. Minister Theresa Makone’s blatant attempt to spring suspects from prison using her influence ranks as one of the clearest signs of the failure of the MDC-T to break with the past. While as an opposition party the MDC-T was very vocal in denouncing the ZANU-PF government, today it stands accused of practicing the same policies and yearning for the same aggrandisement that was the hallmark of ZANU-PF.
There are many missing persons in Zimbabwe from the 1980s to date. It will be interesting to see the same zeal from the minister in trying to account for them. Minister Gift Chimanikire was at the forefront of advocating for higher allowances for MPs covering COPAC programmes. We all recall how the same MPs invaded the RBZ for cars not long ago. Some of them unsuccessfully tried to hire out the same cars for COPAC business.
The stinking corruption in councils has been fully documented. These are councils led by the MDC-T. The inclusive government has given Zimbabweans a window of opportunity to look into the souls of the MDC-T party and assess whether indeed it is a party of excellence. Unfortunately, the MDC-T is a party of patronage and opportunism. It is a painful fact that cannot be denied or ignored.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seemed to be content and happy with “drinking tea and eating cake” in the State House e
very Monday. People are saddled with bills that they can never pay, while civil servants receive insults disguised as salaries.
The sacrifices that were made by all Zimbabweans, the tears that were shed, the disappearances, the pungwes that were endured, the suffering that was stoically borne and the beatings that were received have all been forgotten. The MDC-T officials are now driving Mercs and insatiably feeding from the trough. At the airport they park right by the plane and the show of power is seriously nauseating. The people have been forgotten, the agenda has been changed. I am tempted to conclude that an MDC-T government has the potential of being twice worse than the ZANU-PF government.
I believe we need a third way out of the Zimbabwean crisis. A new way that shuns the archaic policies of ZANU-PF and avoids the naivety and greediness of the MDC-T. A new way that brings together the best of Zimbabwean brains regardless of tribe or race. We need a break with the past.
I am calling upon the people of Zimbabwe who truly love the country to mobilise and save it from the clutches of ZANU-PF and the dangerously narrow minded naivety of the MDC-T.
I am calling for the formation of a broad-based opposition party to challenge the MDC formations and ZANU-PF in the next elections. A lot of Zimbabweans are completely dismayed by the change of name rather than the change of policies and are willing to start anew the fight for a truly democratic and people-oriented dispensation.
In Animal Farm at the end the other animals could no longer tell the difference between the pigs and Jones’ men that the pigs had gallantly fought to overthrow.
Takwana Jonga is also a London Co-coordinator of The Zimbabwe Action Group Organization( http://www.zimbabweactiongroup.org) which seeks to promote and help in the protection of human rights both in the UK and in Zimbabwe and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org