CAHSS Faculty Articles

Transitional Justice Will Have to Wait (Justice in Zimbabwe)



Publication Title

Oxford Transitional Justice Research Working Paper Series

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Talk of transitional justice before political transition in Zimbabwe is premature and possibly pointless. The focus of discussion therefore needs to shift toward the more immediate and pressing imperative of political change. Zimbabwe stands on the brink of a Somalia-type disorder, and regional efforts have thus far concentrated on pressing the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) into joining the Mugabe regime in the hope that this will facilitate an orderly transition of power. For the MDC, that route is fraught with danger, but transition is fast becoming a desperate need rather than a political aspiration. In this essay, I highlight three arguments that militate against the pursuit of transitional justice at this point. First, holding ZANU–PF accountable for its criminal conduct is not feasible while the party still holds the reins of power. The ZANU-PF political elite will resist accountability, the police and senior army personnel are complicit in criminal conduct, and the judiciary has been co-opted by the government. Second, any attempt at truth telling and reconstruction of the ZANU–PF’s political, social and economic narrative is at this point equally unfeasible and will pose serious physical danger to any potential participants. Third, the country is literally on its knees economically and currently has neither the political will nor the resources for embarking on transitional justice processes.

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