THE ZIMBABWE Human Rights NGO Forum has taken President Emmerson Mnangagwa to court to compel him to appoint a substantive chairperson of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) before the constitutional body embarks on public hearings countrywide.
by CHARLES LAITON/SHARON SIBINDI
The NPRC was planning to start the hearings today with visits by two teams to Gwanda and Bindura as the government begins to act on the emotive Gukurahundi issue, among other concerns.
But, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, through its executive director, Blessing Gorejena, said the exercise might end up being considered futile if Mnangagwa did not appoint a substantive chairperson as required by law.
“The first respondent (Mnangagwa) has acted unlawfully and, moreover, has failed in his constitutional duty to respect and uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe by failing or neglecting to appoint a chairperson of the NPRC who is qualified as required by the Constitution,” Gorejena said in his founding affidavit.
Gorejena said when Mnangagwa signed the NPRC Bill into law on January 5, he appointed Lillian Chigwedere, who had earlier been the deputy to the then acting chairperson Bishop Ambrose Moyo, as the acting chairperson.
“Effectively, Chigwedere is acting as the chairperson at this point in time. To complete the picture, the other commissioners are given as Patience Chiradza, Choice Ndoro, Charles Masunungure, Geoffrey Chada, Leslie Ncube and Godfrey Chekenyere,” he said.
“While Chigwedere may be qualified to act in the absence of the chairperson, the situation that we are presented with here is not one where she is acting because the chairperson is absent for one reason or another. It is that the first respondent has neglected to carry out his constitutional duty of appointing a qualified person to serve as a chairperson of the NPRC. Since the death of Cyril Ndebele, the NPRC has sought to plod on without a qualified person in the chair.”
In the application, the NGO Forum has cited in their official capacities, Mnangagwa and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as well as the NPRC as respondents.
Meanwhile, the NPRC hearings have since been suspended following the urgent chamber application by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum questioning the roll-out of the hearings without a substantive NPRC chairperson.
“The NPRC received a notice of an urgent chamber application filed by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum interdicting the commission from ‘undertaking any stakeholder engagements or any work that it is mandated by the Constitution to carry out’ until a substantive chairperson of the commission has been appointed,” Chigwedere said in a statement.
“As a result, the NPRC hereby notifies the nation of Zimbabwe that the provincial consultations that were scheduled for February 9 in Matabeleland South Province (Gwanda) and Mashonaland Central Province (Bindura) have been postponed to a date to be advised.”