The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill seeks to benefit perpetrators of human rights violence rather than the victims, raising the need for civil society to engage the parliamentary portfolio committee and members of the House of Assembly over the issue, a lawmaker has said.
Addressing a group of civil society activists in Bulawayo yesterday, Umzingwane proportional representation MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC), hailed the proposed Bill, saying it had the potential of resolving the most contentious issues affecting people in Matabeleland region.
“It is a bedrock of issues that we have raised as a region. I am even tempted to say, as a region, we can throw away the Constitution and lobby heavily around this Bill,” she said.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission was the only Chapter 12 commission that had a time limit.
“It is the only Chapter 12 commission that is transitional. It is the only commission, the world over, with a limited time frame. It was given 10 years. That means whatever has to happen (around this commission), it has to happen in these 10 years.
“It is not clear when those 10 years begin and end. The Constitution says the commissions come into play at ‘the effective date’, which is the date of the swearing in of the President. In that case, we have already lost three years.
“This is political. They didn’t want it to sit in the communities. It was designed to limit its impact. The crafting of the bill makes it clear that it’s something they are afraid of” Chapter 12 of the country’s constitution provides for the creations of commissions including the gender commission.
“This Bill is bad, very bad. As a country, we can as well have come to a point where we say perpetrators of Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the 2008 violence will never be prosecuted within the boundaries of this country.”
Human rights activist, Sylvester Phiri, said the Bill seemed intent on rewarding perpetrators rather than seeking justice for the victims of human rights violations.
“In the context of corruption and bad governance that we have always complained about in this country, some of the things included in this Bill are total nonsense and useless,” he said. “In the ancillary section, it talks about constructing dwellings for members of the commission, providing security in respect of loans that commissioners can take, and retirement packages. In this current Bill, it’s not clear what the compensation for the victims will be. Some people just want something as basic as a decent burial as reparations.”