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Truth commission in new constitution

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The draft constitution contains a clause allowing for the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, sources in the constitution-making body, Copac, have revealed.

Cabinet has complained the draft has taken too long to complete and demanded that it be submitted to the three principals in the inclusive government by next week.

If adopted, the clause would pave way for investigations into past human rights abuses like the 1980s Gukurahuindi massacres, the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina and many others recorded over the past years.

Sources said clause 18 of the draft stipulates the establishment of a truth commission.

Copac co-chairman Edward Mkhosi (MDC) yesterday confirmed the development.
He said it was a welcome development as it might solve the issues surrounding the Gukurahundi massacres where about 20 000 people from Matabeleland and Midlands were killed by the Fifth Brigade.

“It is true there will be a clause to deal with that. I am for this Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission because if there is ever going to be forgiveness, the people responsible must accept there were atrocities and then apologise to the victims,” said Mkhosi.

“If we don’t do that, then there is a likelihood of a recurrence of such atrocities. People must talk, accept responsibility and apologise.”

Copac co-chairman Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana (Zanu PF) said: “Is there anything wrong with that? I do not know as yet, but it is a proposal on the table.”

President Robert Mugabe is on record describing the Gukurahundi era as “a moment of madness” while several senior officials in Zanu PF have ruled out the possibility of the Gukurahundi atrocities being revisited or victims being compensated.

Apart from the Gukurahundi massacres, Zimbabweans have also been victims of politically-motivated violence during the 2008 elections and human rights abuses during Operation Murambatsvina in which thousands of people were rendered homeless after their houses were demolished.

Clause 18 (1) of the draft constitution says: “An Act of Parliament must establish a commission to be known as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission . . .”

The clause spells out the functions of the commission as “to investigate any matter relating to abuses of human rights and freedoms which occurred before the effective date, including to provide remedies for victims of abuses, and to promote national reconciliation in order to avoid conflicts in the future”.

Clause 18 (2) of the draft reads: “The Act of Parliament referred to must also give the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission all the powers it needs to exercise its functions, in particular to summon and examine witnesses, to grant immunity from prosecution to persons who admit having committed abuses of human rights or freedoms.”

It further states that the wrongdoers should apologise or make reparation to their victims and will impose penalties on anyone who is found trying to obstruct, interfere with, or fails to assist the commission in its work.

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