The Sunday News
Dr Obert Mpofu
I CONCLUDED the previous article of this series by exploring how Zapu was a victim of neo-colonial treachery which was brazenly targeting its Matabeleland and Midlands strongholds. The aim of this policy by the West was to curtail the spread of communism in southern Africa through Zapu.
In attempting to give a balanced account of issues, it is important to note how Western hegemonic interests influenced the Matabeleland and the Midlands crisis. This also helps in formulating a strong understanding of philosophy behind the 1987 peace concession which originated a course of reconciliation.
This further translates to unpacking why the ethos of unity remains a cardinal rallying point to safeguarding national interests. This peace foundation continues to inspire a unifying consciousness towards national belonging. However, it does not supersede the reality of the need to embrace the fractured state of our societies. To this end Bhebe (2016; ix-x) argues that:
“. . . achieving consensus on how communities should heal and reconcile seems difficult to achieve in most societies in transition. Oftentimes, such societies confront a complex mixture of divergent political ideals, divided memories, conflict ethnic and political histories, contesting definitions of political harm and victimhood and legal loopholes . . .
“The intermingling of the aforementioned incongruent interests towards national healing frustrates the establishment of comprehensive national peace-building projects and all-inclusive state-making.”
Consequently, the future of our country depends on our unity and honest confrontations to the threats of our unity. While we consider how the past has been manipulated to canvass for tensions, it is also imperative to constantly revisit the fundamental points of national tension and see how correctional frameworks can be formulated to promote endless benefits of unity and social integration.
On that basis, it is then important to interrogate the steps taken by the new Government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa to heal the nation from the scars of the past. This is because what happened under the façade of an ethno-purging was a broader reflection of the crisis of geo-politics of Britain’s checkmating strategy of Russia’s military and ideological investment in Zapu.
Therefore, Gukurahundi offered a subtle entry point for disempowering the USSR’s ideological strength in Southern-Africa. Until and unless we take heed of the divisive under-currencies of colonial residues in influencing our disharmony it will be hard to build sustainable peace in Africa. This is because neo-colonial forces have not rested in their efforts of pursing their self-interest in Africa.
Ramifications of weak institutional frameworks for peace and reconciliation
Zimbabwe is a nation that is at the point of a healing wave that we will do well to jump into with a resolve and a collective determination to build a healthy future for posterity.
For any nation, the absence of peace and reconciliation is a threat to humanity with devastating consequences that negatively impact on sustainable national development. We are compelled therefore as individuals, families, communities and as a nation to devise lasting home grown models of peace, healing and reconciliation so as to achieve the Zimbabwe we want.
The current thrust of Zimbabwe is to grow its economy, unite the populace through internal and external engagement to achieve cohesion and break isolation. There should therefore be sustainable peace building and reconciliation initiatives.
The transitional position to peace and reconciliation in Zimbabwe
The enacting and signing into law of the National Peace and Reconciliation Act on 5 January 2018 and the subsequent appointment of the Chairperson confirms Government’s commitment and resolve to create a sanguine norming of peace, reconciliation and healing.
Zimbabwe is a nation of a diverse people who have managed over the years to be cohesive. Culture in its diversity has facilitated the integration of this nation. Any attempt to ignore these Zimbabwean cultural realities will not deliver the peace dividend and nation-building that we are striving for.
While the Government is aware and accepts the diversity of models and methodologies of peace and nation-building it is alive to the importance of the community’s cultural involvement that will continuously maintain the people’s being and identity.
To this end, the Government remains committed to upholding a political culture which advances peace, healing and reconciliation.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission: A reconstruction of peace, unity belonging and nationhood.
With President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assumption of power since November 2017, the comparatively fixed, polarised claims to nationhood have since been interchanged with a vibrant, open society with room for wide pluralism and social democracy.
This view can be validated in view of the newly-enacted National Peace and Reconciliation Act which birthed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). This commission was established to audit the unresolved issues of social conflict. This has distinctly served as a clear highlight of the current’s administration’s drive towards social cohesion as an integral part of the Zimbabwe’s current political culture.
Against a backdrop of the Gukurahundi and other cases of political disturbance in Zimbabwe, the commission has to abide to the principles of its foundation. This forms a crucial path in framing the narrative of reconstruction in the face.
The state’s drive for social change has a large scale incentive for economic growth and this is key in reaffirming the industry revival possibilities and synergies in the Southern Region, particularly Bulawayo. Matabeleland stands to benefit more. This also comes at the wake of the implementation of the constitutionally assigned terms of devolution.
This is also in line with implementing the roadmap for activating the capacities of Bulawayo as a Special Economic Zone in light of the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” Agenda. This is because the re-tooling of industry can thrive in an environment that is peaceful to attract Indigenous and Foreign Direct Investment.
The countless public engagement platforms initiated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Bulawayo and Matabeleland Provinces are also illustrative of a strong initiation to reconnect the ruling Zanu-PF with this region.
This birth of the NPRC serves as part of the State’s flexibility in the area of wide citizen engagement and policy environment changes. In theory this can be conceptualised as a strategic regeneration of peace, unity and national healing.
This emerging social transitional phase is also essential in terms of cultural development. This comes at a time the new Constitution of the country has an in-depth acknowledgement of the need for various ethnic groups to be respected and upheld equally. This is because in the past some cultures particularly of various ethnic grouping in Matabeleland have been regarded as marginalised.
Therefore, the new pronouncements of national unity by President Mnangagwa’s administration offer a rational template for social transformation with a huge impetus on other sectors of human development.
Therefore, today we stand to benefit from the positive lessons we can draw from our past and those who initiated the early models of state and nation building before the entry of colonialists. Certainly, if in our unity we managed to seize power at the Lancaster Conference, what makes us think that we will be to fight our present challenges as a divided people?
People should have that sense of oneness before they start seeing themselves as individuals. We need to be at peace with each other. When this happens, Zimbabwe will be poised for national cohesion, transformation and sustainable socio-economic development.
The unifying role of faith-based organisations cannot be ignored in peace building. Zimbabweans are largely a God-fearing people whose value for the integrity and dignity of the individual is anchored on man created in the image of God. Internal peace of an individual based on an active relationship with one’s Maker results in a community at peace with itself.
The role of civil society organisations in our various communities to advance peace, healing and reconciliation is appreciated by Government. Peace, healing and reconciliation requires a co-ordinated multi-stakeholder approach. We must be united in ensuring that we build sustainable peace in all sectors of our society.
The seemingly logical and widely embraced proposition around this externally aided peace and reconciliation advocacy has summarised all state-driven processes to peace and reconciliation as illusive and elitist mechanisms aimed at facilitating superficial convergence around national belonging without sincere emotive commitment to creating lasting premises for peace and reconciliation.
Inversely, this has enthused policy making to be paranoid towards the civil-society anchored appeals for peace and reconciliation. The benevolence of civil society’s dedication to peace and reconciliation has been problematised for “projectising” this agenda instead of dealing with the realities of those tagged with victimhood and those framed as aggressors to peace.
In light of the pointed conceptual cross-roads to peace and reconciliation between the State and a cohort of various entities preoccupied with peace and reconciliation, all of us must re-tool ourselves with new perspectives of understanding conflict, conflict resolution — how peace-building can be achieved in unity of thought and perspective and how in the process peace and reconciliation can be exploited for social re-engineering whose output must be the solidification of our passion to ‘‘Becoming Zimbabwe’’ outside our comfort zones of split patriotic consciousness.
- The author Dr O M Mpofu is the Secretary for Administration in Zanu-PF and member of the party’s Politburo.