Memories of 2008 violence still haunt Zimbabweans – watchdog says in commemoration of Mugabe’s June reign of terror

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By Leopold Munhende

HORRORS that Zimbabweans went through in extremely violent and fatal weeks before a June 2008 Presidential Election runoff, still haunt them whenever polls are called, Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) has said.

HZT said this in a statement shared in remembrance of over 200 victims of the violence that followed late President Robert Mugabe’s first electoral loss in March of that year.

The army, liberation war veterans, National Youth Service (NYS) officers and countless Zanu PF militia groups were deployed across the country following the loss to save Mugabe’s position in government.

Millions were forced to reveal the person they had voted for in flagrant disregard of Zimbabwe’s constitution.

In the process, hundreds of mainly opposition supporters were killed and disappeared, while thousands more were maimed, tortured or harassed.

Mugabe retained his post after late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced the withdrawal of his candidature to save lives.

Neither Mugabe nor any of his lieutenants ever apologised for the reign of terror.

“The state-sponsored brutal violence that characterised the runoff election, claiming more than 200 lives, displacing thousands of opposition activists while leaving hundreds of citizens injured was the worst since Gukurahundi and is still etched in the nation’s memory,” said HZT.

“The culture of impunity that has accompanied and sustained political violence in post-independence Zimbabwe has allowed perpetrators of the 2008 political violence to escape the arms of lady justice until today.

“This has heightened the sense of fear in our people every time Zimbabwe goes for an election, eroding true and effective citizen participation in national governance processes.”

With no evident redress for victims and their families, HZT called for a new, independent commission that will ensure healing, reconciliation and peace in communities which were ravaged by the coordinated attacks and for victims and their families.

Added HZT: “Successive national institutions meant to ensure transitional justice, the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) did little to bring the needed healing to the victims and communities affected by political violence and intolerance.

“As we remember the hundreds of citizens who lost limbs, lives and livelihoods on account of their right to political choices, we call for a new Commission on National Healing, Reconciliation and Transitional Justice that will be more independent, stronger and effective than the previous NPRC whose tenure ended in August 2023.”