Peace Commission Nowhere In Sight

Taken from Financial gazette

peaceGOVERNMENT is still clueless about when the much-awaited National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) would be established, underlining its unwillingness to heal the wounds inflicted by the long-drawn contestation for power between the ruling ZANU-PF party and its rivals. The commission was supposed to be up and running over a year ago and yet there is nothing to suggest that it will be set up any time soon.

The NPRC is the only one out of several commissions introduced during the era of the inclusive government (2009-2013), which is yet to operate. Alexander Rusero, a political analyst, doubted if the NPRC would ever see the light of day due to lack of political will on the part of government. “It is very easy, going through the commission’s job description, to see why the government has been dragging its feet to implement it. This is the last organ they would want to see operating in the country because it targets them,” he said.

The NPRC is provided for in the Constitution, which came into effect in June last year. One of its major functions is to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. The Constitution is clear that the NPRC will have a 10-year time-frame although what is not clear is how far back the commission will consider the cases brought before it. After years of political haggling, Zimbabwe has many chapters that require the services of the commission. Its previous elections, the once before the July 31 polls, were marred by violence, with the 2008 plebiscite claiming more than 300 lives.

It is still debatable as to whether Zimbabwe will close some historical chapters, especially from its distant past, such as operation Murambatsvina, which rendered scores of families homeless as well as the Gukurahundi atrocities in which more than 20,000 people died in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. The country is now confronted with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of trying to strike a balance on the divisive question of how to simultaneously secure justice, truth, accountability and forgiveness, without sacrificing one or the other.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Deputy Minister, Fortune Chasi, said no one knows when the commission would be in place. He said work around it was being dealt with within the conspectus of a plan formulated by government, involving the alignment of the country’s laws to the Constitution.  An inter-ministerial committee has been set up to supervise the process.

“This would enable our drafters to plan their work to, follow up on items that need alignment and new laws that need to be made. We do not want to address one small item at a time,” Chasi said.

“Once the law has been drafted by the office of the Attorney General, it will be taken to Cabinet, then on to the Cabinet committee on legislation before it goes to Parliament for debate after which it could be taken to the President for signing. So in light of this, no one can really tell you when it will be ready because of the many processes involved.”

Asked if the commission’s lifespan could be extended to cater for the lost years, Chasi simply said: “We are bound by the wording of the Constitution. We cannot alter its contents.” Human Rights NGO Forum director, Abel Chikomo, said more worrying was that there is not even an enabling piece of legislation or even a bill before Parliament to give birth to the commission.

“It is not even clear which ministry would be responsible for administering the Act and so we just assume that it is the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. No one is even bothered to spell out these issues,” Chikomo said.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust director, Rashid Mahiya, said the country’s citizens have long been waiting for healing and the commission must deliver to peoples’ expectations.

“It must guarantee justice, truth, reparation and reconciliation. It must reflect the victims’ needs, protect witnesses and avoid self-serving delineations,” he said. Similar commissions in other countries have focused on truth as a basis for reconciliation, for instance the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 2002 and the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 1995. Other similar commissions had clarity on how issues of transitional justice would be dealt with.

For instance the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission could also make suggestions to the Liberian government regarding reparation and rehabilitation for victims; legal, institutional, or other reforms; the need for further investigation and inquiries into certain matters; and the need to hold prosecutions in particular cases.

Design and development supported by HURIDOCS.