By Lance Guma
29 March 2011
The Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Jestina Mukoko, and National Healing Reconciliation and Integration co-Minister Sekai Holland, have both been honoured by the French government for their human rights work.
Speaking at an awards ceremony hosted at his official residence in Harare, the French Ambassador to Zimbabwe Francois Ponge confirmed that Mukoko and Holland received the French National Order of the Legion of Honour award following recommendations by France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“This is an award given to women and men bestowed with outstanding civil and military virtues and whose purpose is to serve – serve their country, serve their values and serve others: those who fight for freedom and equality, values that unite all mankind,” Ponge said.
The Legion of Honour or in full - the National Order of the Legion of Honour – was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. It is the highest decoration in France and is divided into five degrees that recognize both soldiers and civilians who have excelled and others who have shown bravery.
Mukoko, a former ZBC newsreader, was abducted by state security agents from her home in 2008. She was detained for several months and during most of that time it was unclear where she was being held. During her detention she was beaten and tortured by state agents who accused her of terrorism.
In March 2007 Holland was arrested and beaten, having gone to a police station to inquire about fellow MDC activists who had been arrested. She was set upon by about 16 men and a woman who broke three of her ribs. She suffered a broken arm, a broken leg, a fractured knee and multiple bruises and lacerations.
Holland is currently co-Minister of the National Healing Reconciliation and Integration Ministry, which has been accused of doing nothing since the coalition government was formed. Analysts say it is virtually impossible to achieve national healing as long as the perpetrators have impunity to commit more acts of violence.