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Top military establishment should be ‘engaged’ over rights abuses

Top military establishment should be ‘engaged’ over rights abuses

SW Radio Africa News Stories for 22 July 2010


By Tichaona Sibanda

22 July 2010


The organ for National Healing and Reconciliation has been tasked to ‘engage’ the country’s top military brass, in order to involve them in efforts to create an environment of tolerance and respect in Zimbabwe.


The Joint Operations Command (JOC) is made up of Army and Airforce commanders, Central Intelligence Organisation directors, police and prison commissioners – most of them veterans of the 1970’s war of liberation. It is widely believed the group gets its orders from top ZANU PF officials, most of who belong to the party’s politburo.


In 2008 JOC spearheaded Robert Mugabe’s violent fight back, after he lost the first round of the presidential election to then arch rival and now Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. Since independence the military establishment has long been accused of committing most of the country brutal human rights abuses.


JOC comprises General Constantine Chiwenga, the overall military chief; Augustine Chihuri, the national police commissioner, and General Paradzai Zimondi, the commander of the prison service.


Air Marshal Perence Shiri is the commander of the Airforce and the person who masterminded the brutal Gukurahundi military campaign in the early 1980’s, while Happyton Bonyongwe is the director general of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). He is a retired Brigadier in the Zimbabwe National Army.


On Wednesday, the highest decision-making organs of ZANU PF and the two MDC formations met in Harare to try and deal with issues of violence as well as to create an avenue that would foster healing and forgiveness. The indaba was also meant to kick-start the stalled national healing process.


Participants ‘unanimously’ agreed to engage the military to see how they could be part of the process. A source told us since members of JOC were the purveyors of violence, it was felt their presence or contributions would help break the ice to bring perpetrators and victims of violence to a round table.


Critics have questioned whether any statement backed by ZANU PF at this conference can be taken seriously – given that they are widely understood to be behind the violence, and could stop it if they wanted to.


On Thursday, the Prime Minister warned that there can be no room or tolerance for retribution, as this perpetuates the cycle of oppression and suffering.


‘Our healing process must be founded upon the three principles of truth, justice and forgiveness. There can be no truth without justice. While it may not be possible to undo what has been done, it is sometimes possible to assist the victim to move on and rebuild a life that has been shattered,’ Tsvangirai said in his weekly newsletter.


An analyst told us the Prime Minister’s message was perhaps directed towards JOC, ZANU PF and its legion of hardline supporters, most of whom have blood on their hands.


However Theresa Makone, co-Home Affairs Minister from the MDC-T, said cases of people implicated in political violence during the last ten years will not be swept under the carpet but will be handled in accordance with guidelines of the GPA.


Makone told the Daily News on Thursday that criminal cases such as the one involving Joseph Mwale and Kainos ‘Kitsiyatota’ Zimunya – the alleged killers of Tsvangirai’s former driver, Talent Mabika and his assistant Tichaona Chiminya – would be dealt with by the organ for National Healing and Reconciliation.


Article 18.5 (c) of the  GPA agreement says all political crimes of violence committed during the last ten years will be dealt with under the organ for National Healing and Reconciliation.


Makone added; ‘Most of the cases will be handled at the local level because we want the people to tell us how they want the cases to be handled. The perpetrators should own up and express remorse and forgiveness for what they did in a typical African way.’


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