Crime, punishment and forgiveness

19 11 2009

I see from last week’s Financial Gazette that the trial of Roy Bennett, the MDC’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture-designate, has started. He is charged with “possessing wapons for the purpose of terrorism” and treason and if convicted could face the death penalty. Considering Bennett’s popularity in the province of Manicaland that is unlikely (he speaks perfect Shona and just mentioning his name in that region promotes a look of awe and adoration) and the whole trial smacks of political manoevering. Why Bennett, a white ex-commercial farmer who was evicted off his land in the Chimanimani area, is being targeted is unclear; after all he is a relatively small player in the Government of National Unity. Maybe it’s because the Attourney General who is firmly in the pocket of ZANU-PF thinks he has a chance of some sort of conviction. Maybe it’s racially motivated (racism is alive and thriving in Zimbabwe) but it is going to take and extraordinary brave judge to call a not guilty verdict.

I was discussing with Lucy a while back the concept of punishment and how one has to be pragmatic in Africa. Our Dear Leader has substantial blood on his hands, the like of which would have had Slobodan Milosovic impressed (Google Gukuruhundi massacres). It would be great to see him on trial at the Hague or preferably at some African venue with similar powers but that is very unlikely to happen. While this would send a powerful message to the rest of Africa’s autocracy a speedier and more pragmatic solution would be to consign him to obscurity in a rural village not of his chosing. The rest of the sycophants could be put against a wall as a gentle reminder to those who think supporting his ilk is acceptable behavior.

At last year’s HIFA the cast of Truth in Translation (a musical about the Truth Commission in South Africa) ran a workshop on forgiveness. About 30 of us sat in a circle and related to the person next to us in not more than 4 minutes our life story and an issue of forgiveness with which we stuggling to come to terms. This was then related to the rest of the group. I had to think a bit and then chose an incident some years back where I was beaten up by a soldier just down the road from my work. It wasn’t really an issue any more but it was the best I could come to terms with at short notice. Afterwards I commented that forgiving was not so much an event as a process and indeed my pocket OED defines forgive as: “cease to feel angry or resentful towards (person) or about (offence)”. I don’t think I could go up to the person who beat me (it wasn’t bad but very unpleasant – I got a cracked rib) and say – “I forgive you”. Yes, the incident has ceased to be relevant to my life but it is certainly not forgotten! I did report the incident to the 2IC of the barracks just down the road where the lout who beat me was based and of course nothing happened. A lawyer friend advised me to drop the issue; it would not have been difficult for the person to find out where I lived and make life “difficult”.

Caro teaches art at a private girls’ school and I have known her since my university days. We were chatting last Sunday about art and how it works as a catharsis and is often an early warning sign of psychological problems. Another woman (I’ll call her Gail – not her name) who teaches with her and whom I know slightly helps out black women in a nearby community with a sewing group. Gail was obviously upset by something and Caro asked her what the problem was. A younger woman in the sewing group was a continual trouble causer and finally Gail had told her to either settle down or get out. Others in the sewing circle had then decided to discipline the woman and beat her and killed the baby on her back. That Gail even goes so far as to help out in the community is remarkable considering that her aunt who was kicked off her farm in Ruwa was raped by 4 of her assailants at the time of the eviction. Gail’s brother was a GP here at the time and ended up testing the 4 assailants for HIV – all were positive. He decided this was incompatible with his Hippocratic oath and emigrated to New Zealand.

It is perhaps not surprising that at an art exhibition I went to over the weekend there were some very disturbing works on violence. One was a small box in which there were 4 feminine dolls; Barbie dolls mostly with other heads on them. All had been mutilated in one way or another –
burnt, legs carved up etc. Another painting showed the internal machinations of a torture chamber that I am told was accurate although the artist had not been a victim. There was no shortage of other political statements. It was all the more poignant as it was very much a case of preaching to the converted. The theme of the art exhibition was “Walls”- a competition sponsored by the German Embassy to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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3 responses

20 11 2009
Big Blister

OMG!

20 11 2009
eileen

wonderful to find your blog.so late at night-i will start reading in the morning.cannot find your surname though-still reading and looking-can you help a bit.chancellor and eastern highlands all well known to me.goodnight eileen

21 11 2009
Big Blister

I think it would be very unwise to have your surname or other ID visible on this site – far better to share it via personal email!

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