“Address the Past for Sustainable Positive Peace in Zimbabwe”

Each year on 21 September the International Day of Peace is commemorated to strengthen the ideals of peace around the world. The day is commemorated under a theme that is relevant to the ongoing global events and this year’s theme is “Recovering Better for an Equitable and Sustainable World”. This theme is inspired by the recognition that as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic there is a need to help everyone recover better, build resilience, and reflect on how to transform the world into one that is more equal, more just, equitable, inclusive, sustain- able, and healthier. The theme is therefore a reminder that for the world to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, there is a need for people to make peace with one another and work together to build a more peaceful, equitable society.

Today, as the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) joins the rest of the world in commemorating this day, it reflects on how the people of Zimbabwe can recover better for an equitable future that is characterised by sustainable positive peace. Positive peace continues to elude Zimbabwe despite gaining independence in 1980. This year’s com- commemoration of the International Day of Peace comes at a time when the Gukurahundi is a topical transitional justice issue in Zimbabwe. This is attributable to the theft of the Gukurahundi memorial plaques in Silobe- la and Bhalagwe. While these thefts have been con condemned by society and other stakeholders, the NTJWG is concerned by the silence of the State and the National Peace and Reconciliation (NPRC) on this issue. The NTJWG calls for the N PRC to take action to investigate the thefts and hold the perpertartors accountable. To enable the NPRC to take the necessary action in this matter, the NTJWG implores the State to ensure that adequate resources are availed to the NPRC to enable it to take the necessary action in instances such as these.

The Gukurahundi massacres have also been a topical issue recently amid efforts to usurp the NPRC’s mandate to address the issues stemming from the Gukurahundi by giving the National Council of Chiefs the mandate to spearhead their resolution. Of specific concern is the President’s engagement with the chiefs in which he gave them the mandate to deal with the issue of exhumations and reburials of the remains of the victims of the Gukurahundi in their jurisdictions among other issues. The usurping of the NPRC’s mandate in this manner betrays the State’s insincerity to address the Gukurahundi and other epochs of violence in Zimbabwe. For issues stemming from Zimbabwe’s past to be address and ensure that positive peace is attained in Zimbabwe there is need for the State to address the past sincerely with a view to ensure justice for victims and their families and guarantee non-recurrence.

As the country commemorates the International Day of Peace, it is necessary to reflect on the best way the past can be equitably resolved in a manner that will foster sustainable peace. This is necessary to guarantee non-recurrence of violent conflict and to ensure that there is the creation of an environment that allows families of victims such as those in Silobela and Bhalagwe to remember the lives of their loved ones with- out being re-victimised by perpetrators. In this vein, the NTJWG calls for a national dialogue process that is broad-based and inclusive to ensure that all stakeholders participate in discussions about how Zimbabwe can rebuild and recover better from its violent past. The NTJWG urges the NPRC to take leadership and continue the national dialogue process it stopped in 2019. Further, the NTJWG calls for respect of independent commissions and their constitutional mandate by the State, the President, and all other stakeholders who must support these commissions and not usurp their mandates.

Source: National Transitional Justice Working Group

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