The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill yesterday sailed through the Second Reading Stage in the House of Assembly, amid protest by MDC-T MPs that the clause on timelines regarding cut-off dates as to when cases of human rights violations were perpetrated should be changed.
Magwegwe MP Felix Magalela Sibanda and Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda argued it would be a serious travesty of justice if perpetrators of the Matabeleland Gukurahundi genocide, Murambatsvina, and 2008 election violence were not investigated by the commission and brought to book.
Section 9 (4) of the Bill as brought to the House by Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa stipulates that the commission shall not investigate a complaint relating to an action or omission that occurred earlier than February 13, 2009.
Magalela Sibanda argued even perpetrators of the German Holocaust during the Adolf Hitler era were still being tried and punished for their crimes to date, and said the same should happen in Zimbabwe in order to heal the wounds of those affected by such violations.
“Up to now, the people who committed war crimes during World War II (1939-1945) are still being arrested and in Zimbabwe why are we saying cases should be closed?” Magalela Sibanda queried. “Around 20 000 people died during the Gukurahundi era and in 2008 people also died and I say to you Mzilikazi will rise from the dead if this issue is not solved.”
Dorcas Sibanda said as MPs they had consulted their constituents on the Bill and people from Matabeleland demanded the issue be solved.
But, Mhondoro-Ngezi MP Bright Matonga (Zanu PF) said if the MDC-T wanted those cases to be opened, then cases of abuse by the Smith regime and Ndebele-Shona wars of more than a century ago should also be reopened.
In reply to their arguments, Chinamasa said the law did not operate in retrospect and the clause would not be changed.
“My proposal to Cabinet was that we start from when the Bill comes into effect and Cabinet considered the matter too contentious and referred it to the team of negotiators. I would advise you not to expend your energies in digging the past instead of dealing with the future,” Chinamasa said.