Didymus Mutasa, who served as Mr. Mugabe’s minister for national security until the power-sharing deal went into effect, acknowledged that some senior officials in his party might be worried about prosecution.The crimes that have been committed under Mugabe's government are unquestionably horrible, and the victims most certainly deserve justice. The Times provides a short accounting:
Had the party floated the idea of an amnesty? he was asked. “Perhaps,” he said.
Were abductions used to gain leverage for amnesty? “There could have been something like that,” he said, “but how am I to know?”
This doesn't even include the horrors that Mugabe has unleashed on his people through his misrule: driving the country into bankruptcy, destroying Zimbabwe's agricultural capacity, collapsing the state's educational and health care systems, and so on.
The crimes committed to entrench Mr. Mugabe’s rule date back to the 1980s, when thousands of civilians from Zimbabwe’s Ndebele minority in Matabeleland were killed by the notorious North Korean-trained Fifth Army brigade, according to historians.
Among the Ndebele, the tears of the living must be shed to release the souls of the dead. But the Fifth Brigade insisted that there be no mourning for those they killed, and in some cases shot family members because they wept, according to “Breaking the Silence,” a 1997 investigation based on the testimonies of more than 1,000 witnesses.
Other political crimes include widespread attacks on the opposition in 2000, 2002 and 2005, and most gruesomely last year. Beyond that, a vast 2005 slum clearance effort known as Operation Murambatsvina, or Get Rid of the Filth, drove 700,000 people in opposition bastions from their homes.
Last year, close to 200 people were killed, mostly before the June presidential runoff between Mr. Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and thousands were tortured in state-sponsored attacks, but so far no one has been prosecuted, according to a State Department human rights report released in February.Mr. Mugabe’s party fears that even more damning evidence will be unearthed.
So, justice is clearly due. But what kind of justice? Setting aside the coercion, should Mugabe and his cronies be given amnesty for their actions? Is getting the ZANU-PF out of power more important than punishing its leaders and members for their actions?
That decision rests, as it shoud, with the peopel of Zimbabwe. Different countries have transitioned through their difficult pasts in different ways. South Africa effectively granted amnesty through its Truth and Reconciliation Committee; Peru just recently tried and convicted its former president for crimes committed during its struggle against Marxist rebels. There are powerful arguments supporting each path.
Still, I would hope to see Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change do what is best for the country, which would be to get Mugabe and the ZANU-PF out of power. Hopefully, the MDC can resist the campaign of coercion being unleashed against it. In its place, the MDC should offer a broad amnesty, up to and including Robert Mugabe himself, in exchange for a full transfer of power to the MDC, which in all likelihood is the rightful ruling party. The amnesty should ensure that no one guilty of the crimes in question can hold political office in Zimbabwe again and that, as in South Africa, a full accounting of crimes is necessary to be granted amnesty. If such a deal can be reached, it should be taken. Anything less would be a true travesty of justice.