Saturday, July 25, 2009

ZIMBABWE - LETTER FROM THE DIASPORA !

24th july 2009

Dear Friends,

However bloody the battle, be it in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the DRC or Ruanda, sooner or later the opposing sides have to sit down and talk to each other. One of the excuses that Africa and the west have used for not intervening in Zimbabwe has been that there is not a situation of outright conflict. There has been no war they say - unless you call the long, slow war of attrition waged by Zanu PF against innocent civilians a war - and, I would argue, there is no real peace. Misguided, or just plain deluded politicians may argue otherwise but reality tells a very different story. Up and down the country we have documented cases of violence still going on; that violence takes many forms and we cannot exclude wrongful arrest, the misuse of the police and the courts whose political allegiance appears to be stronger than loyalty to their oath of office. The state under Robert Mugabe's misrule has become an instrument of violent repression against any citizen who dares to disagree with the Zanu PF. With complete disregard for the fact that is his own party that has been primarily responsible for the continuing violence, Robert Mugabe has declared a period of National Healing. The Extraordinary Government Gazette declares that July 24-26 will be days when "Zimbabweans at home and abroad renounce and report all forms of political violence in an effort to restore peace and stability in the country." And to compound the hypocrisy of this nonsensical declaration, Mugabe's 'partners' join him in this call for 'National Healing'. While their own MDC supporters, including MPs are being arrested on patently trumped up charges, or beaten up like the young woman in UMP, the MDC leaders blithely ignore their plight and join the President in his call for three days of National Healing.

It all sounds very worthy but several questions spring to mind. Apart from the sickening hypocrisy of Mugabe's call, I ask whether it is remotely possible that 'healing' can take place when the Zanu PF perpetrators of the violence are still at large and the police steadfastly fail to prosecute the wrong-doers? Appeals to the churches to participate in this process of National Healing may well be heeded on the grounds that it is the 'Christian' thing to do but I for one cannot see how there can be genuine healing without justice and truth. It is Gordon Chavunduka, the leader of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association, who best sums up the reality. "It is too early for such a process," says Chavunduka, "the wounds from the 2008 violence are still too fresh and those who committed such violence must take responsibility." That is the nub of the matter. From Robert Mugabe himself right down to his thugs on the ground there has been no acceptance of responsibility for their crimes, no sorrow expressed for the victims of the barbarous cruelty and inhumanity that has been meted out on innocent men, women and children. Instead we are offered three days of 'National Healing' as if that alone could do any more than draw a veil over unpardonable crimes against humanity.

Just to be absolutely sure I understood exactly what is meant by the term 'Healing', I checked the word 'heal' in the dictionary. This is how it is defined: 'to restore or be restored to heath; to repair (of a wound) by natural processes, as by scar formation; to cure a disease or disorder; to restore or be restored to friendly relations, harmony etc. The word 'heal' derives from the Old English 'haelan' meaning 'whole'. It follows then that national healing implies that what was hurt or wounded in the nation would be made whole again. Does anyone seriously believe that can be done in three days? One look at the ongoing violent situations around the world tells us that healing may take a very long time. Indeed, Mugabe himself is hardly an example of Christian forgiveness and healing. Despite his stirring words at Independence, we have seen little 'healing' of the wrongs done over the years to Zimbabwean citizens. Mugabe has had nearly thirty years to demonstrate the spirit of national healing and forgiveness but all we have heard from him is hatred and intolerance towards anyone who disagrees with him. Healing takes time apparently, longer for some than others. I was vividly reminded of that by a piece in the UK Independent this week. The article dealt with an incident which took place 25 years ago. In October 1984 a thirty-pound IRA bomb blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, an English seaside resort on the south coast, where the ruling Conservative party was holding its Annual Conference. Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister was there, of course and was the probable target. She was unharmed in the massive explosion that followed but Norman Tebbit, a senior minister in her government, was buried under tons of rubble. He was rescued after hours of digging and eventually recovered from his injuries. His wife, Margaret, has been in a wheelchair ever since, paralysed from the neck down. Norman Tebbit said he can never forgive Patrick Magee, the IRA man who planted the bomb. "The only way he would ever want to bump into Patrick Magee" Tebbit said, " would be with a heavy truck." As I said, it takes different people in different ways, this healing process. Another victim of the bomb-blast was Sir Anthony Berry and it is his daughter who has befriended Patrick Magee who was released from prison under an amnesty when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Together these two unlikely allies have worked tirelessly for peace in the troubled land. Magee has set up a charity called Building Bridges for Peace and has publicly expressed his sorrow for the loss of life that his action caused. He has, however, defended his reasons for planting the bomb. Whether one agrees with the IRA cause or not, the fact is there is now peace of a sort in Northern Ireland and a genuine power-sharing government is in place.

From where I'm standing, the same cannot be said of Zimbabwe and three days of National Healing will do little more than produce a whole lot of pious platitudes from the politicians who all have their eyes on the next election. At the risk of repeating myself, I still say that until I hear Robert Mugabe himself come out on national radio and television ordering his followers to immediately cease and desist from violence and for the police to vigorously prosecute all offenders, I will not believe that the President's call for National Healing is any more than a clever PR trick. Clever because, after all, what political leader could come out openly and say he didn't agree with 'National Healing'? Once again, Mugabe comes up smelling of roses, except for the cynics among us who definitely detect something 'fishy' about the whole exercise. On another continent, Patrick Magee served a prison sentence for his horrendous crime, expressed genuine sorrow for the suffering he had caused but maintained his cause was a just one. What 'cause, I wonder, other than silencing all dissenting voices, would Robert Mugabe put forward to excuse his crimes against the Zimbabwean people?

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.

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