Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Church Leaders Want Truth Commission

Saturday, 27 September 2008 19:52

Church leaders want a truth and reconciliation commission as one of several ways of cementing the recently signed political settlement between the country’s main political rivals.

Christian Alliance, a coalition of churches involved in human rights advocacy at the height of Zimbabwe’s political crisis, said it had already set up nationwide structures to spearhead the national healing process.
But Raymond Motsi, the alliance’s spokesperson, said national healing would not be possible without full disclosure of what happened, followed by some form of justice.
He said churches favoured a truth, justice and reconciliation commission modelled along the lines of one established to deal with political crimes in post-apartheid South Africa to achieve true reconciliation.
"Churches are saying the process should start once a new inclusive government is put in place," Motsi said. "That should mark the beginning of the transitional justice system."
The ruling Zanu PF and the two formations of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) signed an agreement to form an inclusive government on September 15 following a violent election season.
The agreement called for the promotion of a national healing process but so far the parties are not agreed on what form it should take.
Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai recently said senior members of Zanu PF should face prosecution for their role in human rights violations against opposition supporters in successive elections.
He said President Robert Mugabe would not face prosecution.
On the other hand, Professor Arthur Mutambara of the small MDC formation said the new dispensation should avoid "retributive justice".
Sections of civic society who have dismissed the power-sharing deal as elitist, say they prefer a consultative process to decide how Zimbabweans want to manage the reconciliation process.
Motsi said ordinary people not political parties should decide whether the healing process should include disclosure of crimes dating back to the 1980s atrocities in the southern region or that it be confined to the political upheavals that began in 2000.
This process should not be left to the political parties alone," he said. "It should not be elitist and should not be a political decision between Zanu PF and the MDC.
"It should not be legislated to the Zimbabweans."
Christian Alliance programmes co-ordinator Barbra Bhebhe said church leaders were being equipped with counselling skills so that they could take charge of the reconciliation process.
She said the new government should be committed to ensuring there would be no repeat of the violence.
During the course of the negotiations led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, leaders of the three parties issued a statement saying all sides were responsible for the violence.
But human rights groups say Zanu PF militias were responsible for most of the violence that left over 100 MDC supporters dead, more than 5 000 injured and 120 000 others displaced.
Meanwhile, Christian Alliance has set aside October 5 as a day of prayer and has called on all politicians to attend church services in their areas.
The prayers, the group said, were meant to strengthen the new government and also to pray for a better rainfall season.

By Nqobani Ndlovu

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