Magwegwe MP Felix Magalela Sibanda has criticised human rights and civil society organisations for failing to support his efforts to table the Gukurahundi Bill in Parliament.
Sibanda of MDC-T, was last week blocked from tabling the private member’s Bill after he was told the constitution only allowed a vice-president or minister to move the motion.
The Bill proposes a law that would force the government to compensate victims of the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Sibanda wanted the government to accept responsibility for the deaths of an estimated
20 000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands Provinces during the 1980s disturbances. Sibanda told NewsDay that the Bill had not been abandoned. He said he would find other means of resurrecting it.
He said human rights groups did not give him the necessary support.
“I, as mover of the motion, am greatly disappointed by the deafening silence of human rights organisations, the legal fraternity and politicians who purport to represent the plight of the people whose human rights have been infringed upon,” he said.
Sibanda said his efforts were also undermined “by draconian laws that stipulate that only the elite and so called Executive have the legal authority to push forward such a Bill.
“This was an opportunity for human rights stakeholders to get involved,” he said.
“Their silence is frightening. It simply states that I am a lone campaigner. Victims will continue to suffer for a long time. The silence of such stakeholders is puzzling.”
Sibanda said the current law stipulating that the Bill can only be pushed by a vice-president, minister or deputy minister protected the “elite and executive” while victims continued to suffer.
“People of Matabeleland have lost a golden chance to push for compensation because the law renders me a backbencher,” he said.
“I am regarded as unworthy to push for such a motion, but if human rights organisations, political parties and legal practitioners had backed me, we would be telling a different story.”
In 2006, then independent MP for Tsholotsho Jonathan Moyo drafted a Gukurahundi National Memorial Bill, which would have criminalised the denial of the atrocities.
The Bill was only circulated among MPs and did not reach Parliament.
Organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu has since thrown his weight behind Sibanda’s bid.
He called on concerted efforts from Matabeleland legislators and ministers to push the Bill.