Chenai Matshaka is a PhD student at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She has worked in the human rights field in Zimbabwe and South Africa focusing on organized violence, torture, political violence, as well as migrant and refugee rights. Her research interests include transitional justice, memory, and conflict as well as tradition-based systems of justice.
In the absence of decisive state leadership in dealing with issues of transitional justice following periods of conflict and violence, civil society often becomes the un-official driver of such processes. This has been the case in the context of Zimbabwe following the 2008 electoral violence. Without a clear road map on the implementation of state developed mechanisms such as the Organ on National Healing Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) and later the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), civil society took on various roles to fill this gap including the implementation of un-official truth projects and un-official memorialisation. While the role being played by civil society organizations in filling this gap left by the state is extremely important, it is imperative to interrogate whether these processes of civil society actually contribute to or take away from any specific or broader goals of transitional justice. This is in light of the argument put forward by Posner (2004:237) who argues that civil society "…can be filled with groups that foster cooperation and improve people's lives, or with groups that sow distrust and foment violence." Civil society has the power to influence and shape society, hence the importance of interrogating civil society's role and participation in matters that have the potential to influence the sustainability of peace.