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Opinion: A photo Robert Mugabe does not want you to see

Police seize pictures of human rights abuses instead of arresting the perpetrators of atrocities.

Mugabe is in denial. Despite South African President Jacob Zuma’s recent bid to revive the stalled inter-party talks, Mugabe says he won’t negotiate so long as sanctions remain in place. His detractors argue he is solely responsible for those sanctions and has it within his power to get them removed.

But Zimbabwe’s 86-year-old leader, cantankerous at the best of times, refuses to make the changes necessary for the European Union and United States to contemplate lifting the measures. 

The issue, both in the controversial photo exhibit and the larger national debate, is how Zimbabwe will come to terms with the political violence and the human rights abuses that have taken place over the past 10 years.

A human rights commission headed by a respected academic was sworn in Wednesday. But not a single person responsible for the 2008 violence, documented in the art gallery exhibit, has been brought to justice. Instead of pursuing the perpetrators of the political violence, the police continue to arrest civic activists.

And Mugabe’s iron grip on the public media intensifies by the week. The president doesn’t believe he lost the 2008 election. It was stolen from him he claims. Nor does he believe reports of torture.

According to a recent account by MDC election official Dennis Murira, "Cries from Goromonzi: Inside Zimbabwe’s Torture Chambers," there has been no accountability by the state.

“We want to know who was supplying all the unmarked vehicles and who was commanding them,” Murira says. “There should be total disclosure and truth-telling.” In particular, he says, those who perpetrated crimes of torture and rape should be brought to justice.

“We cannot continue sweeping these crimes under the carpet,” Murira says.

One victim of Mugabe’s thugs was prominent MDC activist Tonderai Ndira. His wife Plaxedes says she continues to live a nightmare with nobody prosecuted.

“I do not know what these people did to my husband,” she said. “I do not know the pain and suffering he went through and I don’t know what his last thoughts were. But I want whoever murdered my husband to face justice.”

Her plea will probably go unheard. Investigations by the new human rights body are likely to be curtailed by an amnesty for those involved in the violence of the period from 2000 to 2009 which included the murders of farmers David Stevens and Martin Olds and MDC activists Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya, among others.

Their killers walk free and are known to the authorities.

Sadly, those seeking justice for their loved ones will have to wait a while yet.