Transitional justice options in Zimbabwe for 2009

Transitional justice options in Zimbabwe for 2009

Hopes for reconciliation in Zimbabwe

2008 in Zimbabwe began with a sense of cautious optimism surrounding the upcoming elections. By the end of year any hopes for a new Zimbabwe were hard to find. State-sponsored violence and civil unrest threw September's power-sharing agreement into disarray. Whilst it is unlikely there will be sufficient democratic space in the next twelve months to make either high level prosecutions or a truth commission successful, space is there for other transitional justice-related processes to take place and for civics to play a key role in this. Civics have performed an invaluable role in documenting human rights abuses for decades, and for producing reports on their findings

There is a need now for these findings to be revalidated and rewritten as more considered histories that acknowledge the broad structural and social nature and impact of state violence in Zimbabwe. Continued documentation and promotion of prosecution of community based perpetrators, especially those guilty of rape, murder and torture, should be a priority, while some other offences could find redress through traditional compensation processes. In some areas, such processes of very localised redress are already going ahead, with traditional leaders or church leadership mediating between specific victims and perpetrators. There is a need to document these local processes carefully, to learn from both good and bad practices.

Restorative justice is needed at every level. Community members need facilitation in re-negotiating damaged relationships to reduce the likelihood of people becoming pawns in violent political agendas in the future. Ordinary citizens need to be empowered to hold their leadership accountable and to understand that leadership is about responsibility and service and not about dominance and power. The institutions of traditional leadership and local councils need to be reformed over time to reflect this.

[Adapted from author]

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