Zimbabwe: Transitional Justice & Reconciliation Options

image I reviewed Xoliswa Sithole’s documentary, Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children, on this blog back in March. I hope that the BBC’s recent re-airing of the film has once again highlighted the situation in Zimbabwe, which continues to be precarious for the vast majority of its citizens.

The plight of Zimbabwe’s orphans, regrettably, has probably not improved much since the first screening of Sithole’s documentary – despite the best efforts of a number of organisations and individuals working in the country.

The re-airing of the documentary, apart from raising awareness of the staggering challenges facing Zimbabwe’s orphans, might also prompt a wider discussion about Zimbabwe’s future.

Also back in March, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) published a helpdesk research report, ‘Transitional Justice and Reconciliation – Zimbabwe.’

This report is available in full online. It summarises some of the most recent research and survey results conducted in Zimbabwe, highlighting some of the main issues to be addressed. Among other things, it urges:

  • A victim-centric approach and attention to women and children (this clearly resonates with Sithole’s documentary)
  • Greater education in the general population about transitional justice options (such as reparations, truth commissions, amnesty/prosecution options, varieties of truth recovery)
  • Immediate attention to socio-economic issues such as access to food and water, without which transitional justice measures could be deemed meaningless
  • An emphasis on trauma counselling for victims and victimizers – all the while recognising the complexities of the vicious cycles in which victims may become victimizers

The report also notes the difficulty of debating transitional justice in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe remains in power, given that any measures supported by ZANU-PF are not likely to be seen as legitimate in the eyes of the population.

On the other hand, it notes that much good work is already beginning to happen at the grassroots, although this needs to be nourished and supported.

(Photo: Tree growing out of a rock in the Matopos hills, Zimbabwe)

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