By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, February 28, 2016 – POLITICIANS and civic groups in Matabeleland have welcomed the long awaited setting up of the country’s peace commission but are quick to caution President Robert Mugabe should publicly own up to some of the atrocities committed under his regime.
Mugabe recently swore in commissioners to sit in the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) led by former Speaker of Parliament Cyril Ndebele.
The NPRC, which has a 10 year tenure, is expected to spearhead many peace building efforts in a country with a long history of conflicts.
Matabeleland and Midlands provinces are still reeling under the country’s worst post liberation conflict in which an estimated 20 000 civilians were killed under Mugabe’s rule.
The killings, widely referred to as the Gukurahundi massacres, were ignited by Mugabe’s ostensible bid to hunt down army insurgents thought to be loyal to then bitter enemy and former Vice President Joshua Nkomo.
Mugabe has done little to atone for the atrocities except for a curt reference to the massacres as a “moment of madness”. He said this while burying Nkomo’s in 1999.
But Mark Mubayiwa, national coordinator with Nkomo’s Zapu, was adamant genuine reconciliation could only come by if Mugabe himself owned up to the transgressions.
“This issue is bigger than Mugabe himself,” he told RadioVOP.
“Mugabe himself must go to people and apologise to them. He should go around the area telling people what happened so that some rituals would be done.
“People are bitter and angry. So he should take responsibility.
“…These commissioners he appointed won’t do anything. It’s actually waste of government resources.”
Professor Welshman Ncube, leader of an MDC breakaway group, which draws much of its support from Matabeleland, also said he was not hopeful.
“Save for Cyril Ndebele, I don’t even know any other commissioners at all at face value.
“If they have no track records of standing up against violence in the country or written anything on that regard, it’s a cause for concern. I have grave reservation for these women and men,” Ncube said.
Ncube wants the commission to be permanent as opposed to a system of term limits.
A political analyst and Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer Dumisani Nkomo said the current commissioners were mere political appointees who are more likely to prioritise the interests of their appointers than ordinary Zimbabweans.
“Their independence is questionable. For example, Cyril Ndebele is linked to Zanu PF; as such his independence is compromised.
“Also some of them don’t have legal backgrounds. We don’t have confidence in them,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, a peace based coalition of Christian leaders and other faith based organisations, on its part, said the peace commission should create an inclusive process for lasting peace to be realised.
“The Bill must allow churches and civic society to work in partnership with NPRC to ensure that most of the communities in Zimbabwe are reached and are afforded the opportunity and platform to engage with the commission and also bring solutions of how their communities could be healed,” it added.
It urged Parliament to speed up the enactment of a law that will operationalise its activities.