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Archive for the 'transitional justice' Category

“Rituals” team arrested again

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Saturday, February 19th, 2011 by Amanda Atwood

Rooftop Promotions issued this statement today about the latest arrest of their cast. The play, about national healing and reconciliation, has been nominated for several National Arts Merit Awards. Ironically, these awards are to be presented tonight.

The Rooftop Promotions team of the National Arts Merit Awards nominated best theatrical production for 2010, “Rituals” was detained and arrested last night in Centenary, Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe. Among those arrested are NAMA nominees for the same production in best actor (Mandla Moyo) and actress (Joyce Mpofu). The charges are still very sketchy. “Rituals,” written by award winning Please update nowauthor and doyen of the theatre industry, Stephen Chifunyise is a story on how community initiated solutions to healing and reconciliation meet serious resistance with political processes. This is the second time the cast has been arrested.

Harassment of human rights defenders intensifies

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Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Amanda Atwood

This just in from NANGO: The director and two researchers of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum have been taken into custody at Harare Central Police Station. They are being questioned regarding research they were conducting in Highfields about transitional justice.

Earlier today, the Youth Forum offices were raided by police, who questioned why the organisation is encouraging young people to register to vote.

Read this statement from the Youth Forum:

Youth Forum Offices Attacked, Closed

Six unidentified men, suspected to be state agents, stormed the Youth Forum Offices today demanding to know why the organization is encouraging young people to register to vote. The attack is a direct reaction to the Youth Forum’s program where it’s encouraging young people to register to vote by sending SMSs.

The suspected state agents stormed the offices and started unplugging the organisation’s computers and laptops from the main power supply violently saying they were looking for what they termed ‘Mass Communications Equipment’ that the organization is using to send SMSs to young potential voters. After realising that they could not find such equipment at the Youth Forum’s Headquarters, they became very violent and started pushing around furniture and equipment and shoving around the organization’s secretariat. They were so violent that they frightened a few of the organization’s youth members who had come to the offices with complaints that they were failing to register as voters due to a lot of bureaucracy.

The men demanded to know why the organization is sending SMSs urging young people to vote when the country’s presidents has not yet declared the date of elections. They said these SMSs are causing a lot of problems as the Registrar General’s Office is now clogged with a lot of young men and women who want to register as voters. They also insulted the organization’s national coordinator with words that cannot be spelt out in public notifications like this one. They left after grabbing some literature from the offices and threatened the Youth Forum secretariat with unspecified action if the SMSs continue to reach its targeted audience. They threatened to come back with more arsenals to ‘deal with the organization’. For the concerns of security, the offices of the organization have been temporarily closed until the situation normalises. The national coordinator has visited the offices of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for legal advice on the matter.

The Youth Forum is currently carrying out a campaign to urge young people to go out and register as voters. The campaign consists of a number of activities that will ensure that most youths become registered voters and will cast their ballots in any election. Among the activities being carried out in the campaign includes the sending of SMSs to an average of 18,000 youths at least three times every week urging them to take their National Identification Cards and proof of residence and go to their nearest Registrar’s office and register to vote. It is these SMSs that have resulted in a lot of youths visiting the responsible offices in their droves trying to register as voters. The Youth Forum is also concerned by the number of youths who are being turned away because of lack of documentation including the death certificates of parents and grandparents. We would like to urge the registrar Generals office to reconsider certain requirements for registering as voters as these are disadvantaging a lot of youths from registering.

We would also like to categorically state that no amount of intimidation or harassment will deter the resolve of the organization from encouraging its members to register as voters. The youths shall register to vote and will vote come election time and no amount of such threats and coercion will stop the youths from voting as this is their democratic right that cannot be taken away from them. The actions by these suspected state agents should be condemned with the strongest terms possible as it only undermines the efforts by the government to democratise the country.

Remembering victims of Zimbabwe’s Gukurahundi genocide

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Friday, September 10th, 2010 by Amanda Atwood

In honour of his 50th birthday year, blogger and social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya launced the 2010% campaign in March.

In June, he said it was confession time, and demanded redress for the atrocities of Gukurahundi.

Celebrating his 50th birthday today, Rejoice sent us the piece below.

On a day, today, 10 September 2010, that I turn exactly fifty [50] years old, I would like not just to celebrate life in abundance, but also take a twenty-four hour ‘moment of extended silence’ to ponder over those who lost their lives.

In particular, I grieve with my sister Doreen whose daughter Tracey passed on under the cruel pain of leukaemia in England. Moreover there are those twenty thousand citizens of Matebeleland and the Midlands provinces of Zimbabwe – some of which I have heard of – Moliat Ndlovu, Cwayi Bhebhe, Charles Loxton, William Loxton, Dayan Loxton, Gifford Matandaware et al – who perished in the 1980s under the bayonet of Gukurahundi. Mr and Mrs [Luke] Khumalo, the intellectual couple of Tekwani High School, Plumtree, Zimbabwe, are yet to be accounted for, having given their entire lives to impart knowledge on thousands of young people.

My question: at a time when the coalition government of Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur Mutambara pretend to offer the people of my country a chance for peace, why are the perpetrators of the heinous and barbaric acts of Gukurahundi still roaming free? ZANU-PF, under whose control the blood-thirsty North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade chose to waste innocent lives, has yet to confess its crimes against humanity. On a day, today, 10 September 2010, that I turn exactly fifty [50] years old, thirty [30] of those having lived under a brutal authoritarian dictatorship, I would therefore like to propose that ZANU-PF show their remorse by acknowledging that they were wrong, and instead of concentrating on further violating the liberties of white commercial farmers and black human rights defenders, invest money and time in financing a monument at Entumbane, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – so we can forever remember those whose lives they needlessly took. In celebrating life, I therefore acknowledge the existence of death.

How will you make your birthday a day of action?

Zimbabwe: Calls for restorative justice must be heeded now

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Friday, August 20th, 2010 by Marko Phiri

There is lingering talk about forgiveness, healing, truth and reconciliation, all centred around the violent nature of politics that has defined Zimbabwe’s elections especially in the past decade. This politically-motivated violence has been widely documented with people whose homes were burnt, their families killed during orgies of violence rightly complaining that the perpetrators are still walking the length and breadth of the scorched as free men.

As the country approaches another election within the next two years, the violence that has come to characterise political campaigns is already being reported, this time inspired by the constitution outreach programme, and this without any efforts having made to “make peace” with aggrieved victims of past political violence. It is within that scope that this country has placed itself on the path of cyclical violence with perpetrators rightly knowing that nothing will happen to them. After all it is quite straight forward: if you go unpunished for a perceived crime, what will stop you from repeating it? Talk about literally getting away with murder, Zimbabwe presents scholars with innumerable case examples! And we have seen it since 1980 anyway with the Gukurahundi massacres as known architects and the foot soldiers f the troubles have never been taken to task about their role.

Issues around forgiveness and healing are likely to elude us as long as there is no political commitment on the part the leaders who presided over the killing and torture of innocents, and we are guaranteed that angry emotions will be part of our individual and collective psyche for a long time to come. I listened to a man who all along had been enjoying his beer until someone muttered something about the futility of a truth and reconciliation commission and something about how the dead must be left to bury the dead. The man literally wept, saying he never knew his father as he was killed during Gukurahundi and – while he had been enjoying the beer among them – said how much he hated the Shona. Everyone went silent, for how would anyone pacify a man who has so much anger in him? This is a guy who walks and talks each day as if everything is normal but deep there hidden from the rest of us, he harbours and carries such hate and hurt.

This becomes a strong case for the open discussion of what evil has been spawned by political violence and the need for a truth and reconciliation commission so people can move on with their lives. Yet some people in their wisdom think the past can take care of itself by natural processes of time and have been arrogant to calls for a naming and shaming of people behind the raping and killing of wives and mothers since independence. The question for many is that what really can be expected from the people who are accused of heinous political crime and still control state apparatus that would in essence be in charge of letting the law take its course? So does the nation wait for that epoch when they are no longer in government and then they are tracked and shot down like rapid dogs?

But then some will argue that then this goes against the principles of restorative justice but conform to the dictates of vengeance instead, thus justice must be delivered in the here and now so that victims like the man cited above may know peace in their hearts. African politicians have tended to exhibit traits that seek to place them above the moral barometer of normal beings as they use both illiterates and literati to commit the basest crimes, but turn and say the charges are all conspiracies by political opponents: Charles Taylor, Mobutu, Idi Dada Amin, Baby Doc Duvalier – all their stories read the same and the tragedy is that even as we journey into the 21st century, we find ourselves having to make the same excuses made by these evil black brothers. It is invariably always someone else who is not power who is blamed for the atrocities! But with the nature of Zimbabwe’s politics whose popularity contests have largely been defined by clubs and cudgels as weapons of persuasion, we are no doubt in for another round of calls for national healing after lives have already been lost when all this can be averted by heeding the calls for restorative justice.

No police required in Zimbabwean polling stations

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Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Bev Clark

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has issued a statement on the role of the Zimbabwe Police Force in elections. Check it out:

18 August 2010 – Harare – This statement is a response to an article that appeared on the 13th of August 2010 in the Zimbabwe Independent on the opposition to electoral reforms by the Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.

Earlier this year political parties in the GNU agreed to reform electoral laws in Zimbabwe and this included among others a change in the role of the police in electoral processes. The three political parties in the inclusive government agreed to restrict the role of the police in electoral processes to maintaining law and order outside the polling stations as per international standards.

ZESN welcomed this development as the police’s role in previous elections overstepped the boundaries of maintaining law and order.

ZESN has over the years raised concern about the presence of the police in the polling stations which it views as intimidatory. The electoral insecurity argument that the Commissioner is allegedly proffering in his reported efforts to stall electoral reforms is blind to a number of issues pertaining to the role of the police in enhancing electoral democracy.  It is outside the polling station that voters are barred from entering the polling station. Police presence outside the polling station will aid in restraining political parties that campaign within 100 meters of the polling station. In addition, the deployment of the police outside the polling station will deter other forms of electoral irregularities similar to those that took place in June 2008 such as the recording of names of voters by some political parties.

Further, past elections have shown that electoral insecurity takes place well before and after voting while polling days have been largely peaceful, making the insecurity argument even weaker. ZESN seeks to reiterate that the role of the police in providing security to citizens has not been effectively executed as shown by the partial manner in dealing with cases of political violence in the past. The many complaints by victims of political violence between March and June 2008 that they did not get police protection for their persons and property but rather that they were arrested and prosecuted at the instance of their attackers made the electoral changes attractive.

Assisting voters:

In previous elections the role of the police in electoral processes has been contentious as it went beyond maintaining law and order to being present in the polling stations and being present when assisted voters were voting. ZESN has since welcomed the move to remove police presence when assisted voters where casting their vote and further recommended that those who are illiterate bring a trusted friend or relative to assist them and braille ballot papers for the visually impaired.

Postal voting:

In addition, the postal vote has been a thorny issue as the vote has been free from observer scrutiny and has been shrouded in secrecy. The application process has not been transparent and this lack of transparency has extended to the actual voting on issues that relate to the number of people in the security sector that will be eligible for postal voting, the number of ballot papers distributed, the actual voting process and counting of votes and the documented partisan pre-election statements by the Commissioner General.

The proposed reforms that provide for police officers to vote two days prior to polling are a welcome development that can foster transparency. There is no need for the police to vote thirty days before the poll as this removes confidence in the integrity of the process as it allows for tampering with ballot boxes and the outcome of the election. While the police sector was not audited, there is evidence that not all police officers need to be deployed outside the areas where they vote and so can vote in their respective areas where they are based.

ZESN recommends special voting as the case in most countries and not postal voting for the police. Voting that takes place two days before the election and which is also open to ZEC officials, the body that is mandated to run elections in Zimbabwe. We recommend that this process must be transparent and open to observation as well by both domestic and international observers and political parties. In the past postal voting took place before the accreditation of observers, which resulted in an opaque process that lends itself to much speculation, criticism and controversy, which damages the credibility of the country’s elections.

Members of the police as election officials:

ZESN is concerned with the fact that in the past police commanders have been engaged as presiding officers. The role of presiding over elections is best carried out by civilians and not the security sector. The role of the security sector in elections is to promote peace and ensure that the will of the people prevails. An independent and well resourced ZEC must be allowed free and unrestricted mandate to run the entire election while arms of government only play a supportive and not a participatory role. History has lessons.

It is against this backdrop that ZESN strongly condemns the proposed return of the police officers inside polling stations during polling and the use of police and security commanders as presiding officers when the police and military vote. ZESN continues to advocate for comprehensive electoral reforms that includes media reforms; security reforms; an overhaul of the voters’ roll; the creation of a conductive election environment; and transparency and accountability in the whole electoral process.

Change is a process

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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

I went to get my hair done yesterday, nothing fancy, just cornrows to get through the rest of the winter. Not being patient I knew that sitting in the hairdresser’s chair for close to three hours wouldn’t be easy. But I felt that the end justified the wait and the pain of having someone tugging at my scalp. I wanted a change. As I sat, watching the chaotic black-brown bush on my head become tame and transform into something new and orderly, it occurred to me that change is gradual, and sometimes painful. As much as I wished it were, change can never be an event, it is a process.

We are in the process of change. It’s difficult to tell what kind of change from one day to the next, or even if there is progression, particularly when sitting in the dark with a half cooked meal during winter.  But there has been change.

The signing of the GPA was met with much jubilation, celebration and most importantly hope. It restored many Zimbabweans faith in their country and to some extent their leaders. Suddenly there was talk of a working economy, and things like democracy and rule of law returning to Zimbabwe. At the time, that hope was essential, but the faith was misplaced. The GNU was not meant to be the event at the end of the process: it is the process itself. The Inclusive Government isn’t everything: it is not efficient, it is not incorrupt, it is not a democratic dispensation, and it is not a perfect solution.

But it is a solution. Almost two years after the GPA has been signed, we are very articulate about what the Inclusive Government is not, and what it has failed to do. A survey taken by the Research and Advocacy Unit late last year posed the question ‘Do you feel that the GNU has improved your life?’

Significantly most people answered no.

Perhaps the entire perspective on the GNU and its purpose is wrong. It was never meant to be a lasting solution to a problem that took several decades to create. It was supposed to be a vehicle for change. Not just political change, but also change within ourselves. This change is indeed slow, and often painful. Never the less it is a change.