Truth commission on cards

The draft constitution contains proposals to set up a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) that will deal with past human rights abuses, including Gukuruhandi.

The provision will allay fears from human rights activists that the inclusive government is bent on sweeping crimes committed by government officials and security forces since independence under the carpet.

This follows the passing of the Human Rights Bill by Parliament a fortnight ago, which limits the mandate of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to the period after February 2009.

According to Chapter 12 of the draft constitution made available yesterday, the commission will be mandated to “bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice”.

The commission will consist of a chairperson and other members appointed by the President after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee.

It will be required “to develop procedure at a national level to facilitate dialogue among political parties, communities, organisations and other groups, in order to prevent conflicts and disputes arising in the future”.

The NPRC will also be required to develop mechanisms for early detection of potential conflicts and disputes and take appropriate preventive measures.

The NPRC will receive and consider complaints from the public and ensure that “persons subjected to persecution and torture receive rehabilitative treatment”.

The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) is carrying out some of the functions that have been given to the proposed commission. However, critics argued Jomic had no powers to enforce decisions and ensure justice to victims. Human rights activists have been campaigning for justice for victims of Gukurahundi, which claimed the lives of 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s.

There have also been calls for the arrest of perpetrators of political violence that has marred local elections since 2000. The violence has been blamed on Zanu PF supporters and security forces fighting to keep President Robert Mugabe in power. A referendum on the draft will be held later this year.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is one of the high profile victims of the violence.

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