President Emmerson Mnangagwa has shown his desire to cut Executive costs by going for a leaner Cabinet. And we note that in the lean and mean Cabinet he has a department that will deal with the vexed matter of national healing and reconciliation. That is in addition to a constitutional organ, the National Healing and Reconciliation Commission.
This should be a big plus for the President; except that in the past there has been little action, either because of lack of resources or the absence of enabling legislation.
Once again, the department for national healing and reconciliation will be headed by a Vice President after Zanu-PF’s Special Congress to be held in the capital this month.
There are two reasons why we welcome this development, which apparently had been overlooked in the original Cabinet announcement last week. First is that the highest office in the land in the person of a Vice President will be directly involved in this important project.
The second is that President Mnangagwa must have been alerted to the necessity of this organ, and he responded immediately by taking remedial action by making adjustment to his original Cabinet line-up. That shows he takes nation- building seriously, given the attention he wants to accord it in the short period of his Presidency before the next elections next year. This is to be commended. But what will make a really difference between President Mnangagwa’s administration and the previous one is action on the ground and its impact on the people affected.
If we take then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s policy of reconciliation in 1980 as a significant marker of national healing and reconciliation, the new department in the President’s Office’s brief covers mainly the Gukurahundi period from 1983 to the Unity Accord in 1987.
The opposition, MDC-T, has mainly focused on 2008, when it alleges a number of its supporters were maimed or killed in the run-up to the June Presidential election rerun.
These cut-off dates may look arbitrary, seeming, as they do, to ignore the atrocities perpetrated against blacks by the Rhodesian regime during the Second Chimurenga. We are using the 1980 reconciliation as a cut-off date for two reasons: First, the reconciliation policy of 1980 by then Prime Minister went largely uncontested, at least publicly. We assume everyone decided to let bygones be bygones. Second, past efforts to seriously engage the issue of national healing and reconciliation have come unstuck over this issue. If we ignore 1980, how far back should we should go? Given a platform, no doubt the San people living on the fringes of Matabeleland North province would demand their land back or compensation for displacement.
Our crude schema is proposed with a view to possibly bring closure to this rankling matter of national healing, reconciliation, lasting peace and genuine nation building in Zimbabwe. If President Mnanganwa can pull this one off, he would have etched his administration with stone in the annals of our nation.
The challenges we face by failure to engage constructively on these matters are that we don’t get to know what those affected by the events of the early 1980s and 2008 think and feel. The talking has largely been left, without actual delegation, to academics and political parties. We know the challenge of mediators, especially if they are not impartial or, if they are politicians, how they seek to capitalise on it for electoral ends.
We believe it is time to do away with these self-appointed and self-serving mediators and get Zimbabweans talking to themselves directly. We might be shocked and surprised that what some of the victims want is not what we fear. We doubt that there are many who would ask for 20 head of cattle and $20 000 as compensation for a lost loved one because a human being can’t be valued in monetary except under slavery.
A number of people have indicated they just want an official apology. Others want their relatives officially declared dead so that they get official documents which they cannot get now if they cannot produce a father or mother.
Former President Mugabe described Gukurahundi as a “moment of madness” which should never be repeated. Unfortunately, so long as we keep skirting around it, we are bound to keep talking about it, with some mad men making inflammatory statements around it. That way, we keep passing on the poison to our children and their children. That’s definitely not healthy and it must stop.