On the 15th September 2008 Zanu PF and the two MDC formations signed a political agreement brokered by Thabo Mbeki under the mandate of SADC. The agreement was the culmination of a process that had begun in March 2007, which was itself preceded by various other attempts by African leaders, as far back as 2004, to bring an end to the Zimbabwean political crisis. The central aim of the September agreement was to find a power sharing arrangement that would reflect the balance of political power in the country after the March 2008 Harmonised elections, which, together with the abortive presidential run-off election at the end of July 2008, left the issue of the presidential election unresolved. While the Agreement left key areas, such as the allocation of ministerial portfolios unresolved, it also comprised a good basis for moving the political situation forward in Zimbabwe.
However one of the major silences in the Agreement was around the area of Transitional Justice. This was not surprising given the fact that Zanu PF, the major perpetrator of human rights offences in the post-colonial period, was not likely to support such a process. Moreover the MDC for its part, though not without its own problematic history of intra-party violence, neither sought to make this issue a deal breaker in the negotiations, nor had the political muscle to enforce such an inclusion. Thus the September 2008 Agreement contained one section that set out to:
..give consideration to the setting up of a mechanism to properly advise on what measures might be necessary and practicable to achieve national healing, cohesion and unity in respect of victims of pre and post independence political conflicts.
Moreover this provision was lodged in the context of a discourse in the Agreement which attempted to combine the demands for dealing with human and civic rights abuses, with the need to resolve issues around the redress of historical inequalities. Thus the language sought to encompass both Zanu PF’s redistributive demands around the land question, with the more political demands for democratization that have become the hallmark of the MDC and civil society movements in Zimbabwe. It is around such tensions in the political struggles in the country that discussions on Transitional Justice need to be contextualized [Full document available below].