Touted as the solution to the country’s bad human rights record, ZHRC is yet to start functioning, two years after the swearing in of its commissioners. Parliament is finding it difficult to pass the Human Rights Bill that would give the ZHRC the legal mandate to investigate human rights abuses because of persistent differences between the two major political parties.
The ZHRC is a provision of the Global Political Agreement, established by Section 100R of the Constitution Amendment 19, of 2009.
UN Human Rights Chief, Navi Pillay, who visited Zimbabwe last week to assess the rights situation in the country expressed serious concerns about the commission and urged that it should start working ahead of the next elections.
She joins the long list of local, regional and international human rights advocates who have called on the inclusive government to speed up the implementation of all provisions of the GPA.
Zimbabwe’s polls have become synonymous with political violence and the commission is regarded as a crucial tool to address past violations and ensure the avoidance of future abuses.
Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa last Friday claimed at a press conference that MDC-T was frustrating the Bill.
“Last year we, including the two MDCs, agreed on all the issues to be incorporated into the bill but the MDC parliamentary caucus opposes it every time I present it in Parliament,” said Chinamasa.
He said it had been agreed that the Commission would only deal with human rights issues relating ‘‘to the present and future’’. Those pertaining to the period before the GNU coalition government in 2009 ‘‘will have to be dealt with through another mechanism’’.
But MDC-T spokesperson, who is also chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, accused Chinamasa of lying.
“It does not make sense to look at issues after 2009, we did not agree to that,” he said.
There has been heated debate over how far back the body should investigate human rights abuses and Zanu (PF) has been adamant that it should only deal with cases which happened after the formation of the inclusive government in 2009.
This has been interpreted as an attempt by the party to get away with the 1980s Gukurahundi killings and the political violence from 2000 to 2008.
Mwonzora said the committee made recommendations for changes to the Human Rights Bill in October, but the minister had not responded yet.
“The Bill currently does not make sense because we cannot have a commission that is under the control of the Justice Ministry. That effectively negates its independence, which is critical,” he said.
The commissioners include Reginald Austin, llen Sithole, Joseph Kurebwa, Jacob Mudenda, Japhet-Ndabeni Ncube, Sheila Matindike, Elasto Mugwadi, Ona Jirira and Norma Niseni.Post published in: News