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Archbishop calls for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in Zimbabwe

Posted on: November 27, 2017 3:20 PM
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, puts his collar on for the first time in 10 years during an appearance on BBC Television’s The Andrew Marr Show.
Photo Credit: BBC

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has called for the new government in Zimbabwe to deal with past injustices. Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show yesterday (Sunday), the second-most senior cleric in the Church of England suggested that the country should follow South Africa’s example and establish a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Ten years ago, Dr Sentamu cut up his clerical collar on the programme, saying he would not wear one again until Robert Mugabe had left power. Yesterday, he put a new collar on for the first time in a decade.

When Dr Sentamu cut up the collar, he said that it was what identified him as an Anglican clergyman. He said that Robert Mugabe was systematically cutting the identity of Zimbabweans from them. In yesterday’s interview, Marr asked what difference the absence of the collar had made to him. “When I wake up, or dress up and I am going out of the house, normally I do up my top button and then put on my collar,” Dr Sentamu said. “But for nearly 10 years I haven’t been able to put on my collar back, and it has meant that I have remembered Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe.”

Marr then handed Dr Sentamu “a slightly crumpled old envelope” containing the original collar. “I could attempt to put this one back, or I could try and put them all together using superglue,” he said. Agreeing with the suggestion that doing so would make “a pretty of a ropey collar”, Dr Sentamu said: “I actually think that the lesson for Zimbabwe is the same: they just can’t try and stitch it up. Something more radical, something new needs to happen in terms of the rule of law, allowing people to get jobs – because 90 per cent of people are out of work - they just can't stich it up. I need a new collar. . .

“Mugabe has gone but the new president has got to remember something more new than simply stitching up a thing will work.”

He said that his original act of cutting up the collar galvanised Christians to pray for Zimbabwe.

The interview moved on to the future for Zimbabwe under the leadership of Interim-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sworn in on Friday. Mnangagwa was the minister for security and in charge of the country’s intelligence agency at the time of the massacres in Matabeleland and Manicaland in 1983.

In his inauguration speech, the Interim President said: “we cannot change the past. There is however a lot that can be done today although not forgetting the past. However bygones will be bygones as we embrace each other in order to rebuild Zimbabwe, a great country.”

In his interview yesterday, Dr Sentamu said that it was “not as easy as saying let bygones be bygones.” He said that for the “People in Matabeleland and Manicaland who lost nearly 20,000 people, it is as if it happened yesterday.”

He suggested that Zimbabwe followed the South African example by creating a “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to look into it so it doesn’t hang over him.” He continued: “I am a man of faith and therefore a strong believer in hope, and a strong believer that people can change; so it is quite possible that Emerson Mnangagwa could actually be a very, very good president. But he can't simply bury the past. It won’t go away.”

He also suggested that former President Robert Mugabe should list his transgressions before asking forgiveness from the Zimbabwean people. “Mugabe needs to say to the people of Zimbabwe, for 37 years I took on a country which was fantastic and nearly took it to ruin. Zimbabweans, forgive me.

“He is a very, very intelligent man, and actually I think he is capable of doing it.

“You heard him say ‘we must learn to forgive’; but how can people forgive you if you don't admit that which you have done?”