Allegations that Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa may have attempted to bulldoze the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill through the crucial Second Reading in Parliament on Wednesday are quite frightful.
MDC-T MPs objected to a motion moved on behalf of Chinamasa by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara seeking to suspend the automatic adjournment of Parliament and have the House sit until late Wednesday night and also today, Friday, a day that Parliament should not sit, in order to fast-track debate on the Bill and have it passed.
MPs refused to be pushed into appending their signatures to the Bill and reminded the movers of the motion how critical the legislation was in the determining the people’s freedoms and rights.
The lawmakers told the Speaker of Parliament they needed time to study the Bill as presented by the Justice ministry and by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and Constitutional Parliamentary Affairs.
For those that may have forgotten, the Human Rights Bill that Chinamasa sought to fast-track through was the source of the ugly scenes that rocked Parliament Building two months ago where MPs and journalists were attacked by Zanu PF supporters.
The controversial Bill will make into law issues of investigations of human rights violations that encompass the Gukurahundi massacres and other post-independence political disturbances, including the bloody 2008 election violence.
It also touches on issues of functions of the Human Rights Commission, how they are appointed and to whom they should report.
The reports presented for the scrutiny of MPs to inform them on the decision to sign the Bill into law or not are two-pronged.
One comes from the Justice ministry while another comes from the portfolio committee chaired by Nyanga North MP Douglas Mwonzora. A brief scrutiny of the documents shows stark differences.
It would be unrealistic to expect MPs to go through the two documents to choose the acceptable from the unacceptable and to also add their own contributions in a Second Reading session that Chinamasa sought to fast-track within two days.
Presenting findings by his committee from public hearings held by the Thematic Committee on Human Rights and also from members of his committee, Mwonzora advised Zanu PF MPs to shut out political opinions from their judgment and consider the changes proposed by his committee in a non-partisan manner as the final product could work against them in the likely event of political power changing hands.
Zanu PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo must be lauded for treating the issue with a level head and agreeing with MDC-T MPs that the Human Rights Bill was too serious an issue to be fast-tracked.
Gumbo saved the day and probably the well-being of Zimbabwe’s future generations by joining hands with Mwonzora and company and shooting down Chinamasa’s proposal insisting the Bill be given more time for consideration.
Zimbabweans want to see a Human Rights Commission that is meaningful and not another creation of a toothless bulldog that can be manipulated by politicians.
To suggest that crimes against humanity committed before February 2009 should be forgotten is to allow killers and criminals to get away with murder.
Let those that committed crimes pay for their actions and let us allow the commission to be an impartial and powerful body able to bring everybody to account for their actions.