President Emmerson Mnangagwa has come under fire for calling on Zimbabweans to “bury” the past with critics saying the country cannot move forward without first addressing injustices such as Gukurahundi.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
While addressing Zanu PF supporters at Nyamhunga Stadium in Kariba on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said “the past is dead” and there was need to look to the future.
However, governance expert Tony Reeler said if Mnangagwa wants Zimbabweans to forget the past, he should be prepared to also forget the liberation struggle.
“You cannot ignore the past, because you need to build on that past to move forward,” he said. “If we talk of forgetting the past, can we also forget the liberation struggle since it is in the past?”
Grace to Heal founder, Reverend Ray Motsi, who is also a member of the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG), a platform of over 90 organisations championing national healing, said the past was important because one needed closure to carry on.
“Anybody in his right senses cannot say let bygones be bygones. I think what the president means is that we need commitment to move forward,” he said.
“If you kill my wife, can we say let bygones be bygones?
“So let’s give President Mnangagwa the benefit of doubt and assume he means we need commitment as a nation to move forward. But then what are the mechanisms that will help us to move forward, that help us not to go back to a painful past?
“Because you cannot tell people from Matabeleland, where over 20 000 people were killed during Gukurahundi, to just forget.”
Motsi said engagement was the best way in ensuring that people can move forward.
“The first port of call is acknowledgement. Victims and survivors need acknowledgement on who did what, truth-telling. Next it’s engagement, let victims talk,” he said.
“The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission is a good beginning on engagement. The perpetrator cannot just talk of forgiveness, let the victims speak.”
Addressing a community dialogue on national healing convened by the NTJWG in Bulawayo, Gilford Sibanda of Ibhetshu Likazulu said forgiveness could not be an instruction.
“Due process needs to be followed, starting with the truth, followed by justice, forgiveness, healing, then reconciliation,” he said.
The NTJWG has come up with minimum standards for an effective national healing process, among them public participation and victim centrality.
Zimbabweans have never had a chance for healing as they have faced many human rights violations, which include liberation war-related atrocities, Gukurahundi, 2000, 2002, and 2008 electoral violence; and Operation Murambatsvina, among others.
Recently, stakeholders, who attended a national healing conference under the theme NPRC — What’s Next?, in Harare called for national dialogue and truth-seeking in the aftermath of last year’s military coup that saw Mnangagwa replacing his mentor Robert Mugabe.