HARARE,January 8, 2016-A LOCAL civic group has slammed the recently gazetted National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill (NPRC) for allegedly being unconstitutional while seeking to create a weak peace commission open to executive interference.
Briefing journalists in Harare on Friday, National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) chairman Alec Muchadehama welcomed government efforts to introduce the proposed law but was quick to poke holes into it.
“…While the constitution establishes a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that is accountable to parliament, the bill creates an NPRC that is accountable to the executive who is the Minister of National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation,” said Muchadehama.
He also said the proposed law illegally allowed the President to dissolve any sitting commission within five years of its term, when the national charter prescribes a minimum of 10 years.
Zimbabwe has a dark post liberation history which has seen thousands of civilians butchered by the military and militant supporters of current President Robert Mugabe.
The early 1980s Gukurahundi massacres in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in which an estimated 20 000 were killed, and the 2008 presidential run-off election violence orgy, which the opposition claims 300 of its followers died, rank as the bloodiest episodes.
Likewise, the rights civic group condemned the Bill’s apparent incapacity to atone for the hostilities in a manner that facilitates “ensuring post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation, truth-telling about the past, making of amends and the provision of justice and peaceful resolution of disputes”.
The civic group further said the “blurred mandate” of the NPRC has made it look like an extension of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, which has often been accused of lacking the cutting edge to deal with powerful rights violators.
“With the flaws exhibited in the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the Bill duplicates some roles that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission,” according to Alec Muchadehama.
The civic group further contends the proposed law fell short of the minimum requirements prescribed by international statutes for the establishment of a truly independent peace commission.
The standards are set in the UN Rule of Law Tools for Post-Conflict States on Truth Commissions which frown at any political interference for potentially curtailing the legitimacy and public confidence of any commission.
“The commission that the NPRC bill creates will not be different from the current Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration which is located in the president’s office under the management, control and influence of the Vice President in charge of National Healing,” said the civic group.
“… Section 8(7) of the Bill gives the minister power to stop disclosure of evidence by simply issuing a certificate.”
The NTJWG cites lack of victim protection mechanisms by the Bill as one critical area that needs attention and recommends clear action on how victims and witnesses will be protected.Added the group, “It is therefore recommended that there be an entire section dedicated to spelling out the specifics for ensuring the protection of victims, witnesses and any other parties that will interact with the NPRC.”
The NTJWG is a grouping by local rights based groups whose purpose is to both monitor the administration of the peace commission as well as assist government with expert information in ensuring a successful process.