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Culture of suppressing the truth stifling healing

‘Culture of suppressing truth stifling healing’

Thursday, 14 April 2011 21:02

Nqobile Bhebhe

THE Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration’s drive to 
realise transitional justice is being hampered by a culture of suppressing 
the truth deeply entrenched in Zanu PF as well as the exclusion of victims 
of violence, politicians and human rights activists have said.

Speaking during the Independent Dialogue in Bulawayo on Wednesday, the 
politicians and activists stressed that for national healing to be achieved 
and accepted by all citizens, conditions to attain that must include 
legislative reforms, political will, restorative justice and visible 
community involvement.
But bickering within the organ and lack of an enabling law was derailing the 

Kucaca Phulu, a human rights lawyer, said Zimbabwe’s culture of blanketing 
the truth was a hindrance to national healing.

“The truth is elusive in Zimbabwe because the previous Zanu PF government 
took deliberate steps to ensure that the truth is suppressed as a way of 
resolving scars and atrocities of the past,” said Phulu. “So for this 
exercise to succeed there is a need to develop a culture of telling the 
truth and we cannot arrive at the truth through a referendum or an 

He said citizens should be given the platform to freely discuss the past.

“Today we do not know whether the bones that were exhumed in Mt Darwin are 
remains of people killed by the (Ian) Smith regime, people butchered by Zanu 
PF during Gukurahundi or as recent as 2008. This is an example of how we do 
not know the truth,” said Phulu.

Co-Minister of the Organ on National Healing Moses Mzila-Ndlovu concurred: 
“The issue of national healing, during negotiations was presented as a 
talks-breaking item – either you take it or leave it and the two MDC 
formations made concessions around the faulty clause called Article 7 in the 

admit that the starting point around transitional justice was faulty because 
the agreement itself was faulty and the justice we envisaged will not be 

“Because of the vagueness of the GPA, it is not possible for the organ to 
deal with issues of transitional justice because there is too much 
controversy. The aspect to truth-telling is not a top priority in the organ’s 
agenda because we are simply encouraging people to desist from violence, 
then we can go for elections and have a new government. But that presents 
problems for the organ because as co-ministers, we come in with our party 
positions. It is clear to me that other parties (Zanu PF and MDC-T) are 
content with the current set up.”

Mzila-Ndlovu said one of the major hurdles facing the organ was the 
interference of the alleged perpetrators.

“There is no opportunity for the organ to create a framework for 
perpetrators of injustice to be brought to book simply because they 
(perpetrators) are still in power. So is it possible to have perpetrators in 
power and still allow a process that demands them to account for their 
actions to take place?” asked Mzila-Ndlovu.

He said this cascaded down to communities which feel that they are not free 
to tell the truth.

Mzila-Ndlovu said for the past two years the organ had failed to engage 
communities due to undue interference by police through banning meetings.
He said despite an existence of a cabinet directive that the organ‘s 
activities should not be interfered with, that had not been the case. On 
Tuesday police blocked Mzila-Ndlovu from engaging villagers on national 
healing in Kezi.

Phulu agreed that there was a need for security reforms.

“In most cases atrocities are committed by state actors which include the 
police, army and intelligence services. There is a system geared towards 
torture which was inherited from Rhodesia and these should be reformed,” 
said Phulu.

Radio Dialogue Director Debra Mabunda said there was no clear break with the 
past whose traces of violence are still visible.

“How do we start talking about the past when the past is still present 
because until we stop the atrocities happening today, how do we expect to 
look into the past, expect the same people who are supposed to be answerable 
to come forward and agree to face justice?” asked  Mabunda.

Ephraim Ncube, a Bulawayo councillor, narrated how his wife was burnt in a 
hut during the Gukurahundi era in the 1980s but expressed fear that he had 
exposed himself to state security agents.

“At one point I was being hunted down during Gukurahundi and my house was 
burnt with my wife inside and I later got jailed for five years at Chikurubi 
Maximum Security Prison. The national healing issue is becoming a talk show 
as there are no tangible results,” said Ncube.


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