By Tatenda Chitagu
MDC Alliance proportional representation legislator Concillia Chinanzvavana, who is a survivor of torture in 2008, has taken President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the Masvingo High Court, seeking to force him to extend the tenure of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to 10 years as prescribed by the Constitution.
Mnangagwa is the third respondent in the application, while Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is the first respondent.
Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, who oversees the NPRC, is the second respondent, while the NPRC is the fourth respondent.
Attorney-General Prince Machaya is the fifth respondent in the application.
The case came before Justice Joseph Mafusire yesterday, who reserved judgment.
Justice Mafusire said he would deliver judgment in a motion court and would advise the parties of his ruling.
Through her lawyer, Tendai Biti, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Chinanzvavana argued that the NPRC’s envisaged 10-year tenure was shortened by five years owing to the delays in coming up with an Act of Parliament to put it into effect so that it would start operations.
The commission, argued Chinanzvavana, was supposed to be operational on August 18, 2013 when former President Robert Mugabe took oath of office, meaning that its lifespan could have ended to August 19, 2023, to make it 10 years.
But due to delays in enacting the law to operationalise the NPRC the commission only came into effect on January 5, 2018.
Chinanzvavana averred that Ziyambi, Mohadi, Mnangagwa and Zanu PF “amended the Constitution by omission or commission, or through negligence”, taking away five years from the life of the NPRC as stipulated in section 251 (1) of the constitution.
Effectively, the NPRC would just exist for five years, and not the envisaged 10, she told the court.
The MDC Alliance legislator asked the court to declare that there was a constitutional breach in the delay in operationalising the NPRC.
She also wants the commission’s lifespan to be prolonged to January 5, 2028.
Chinanzvavana also wants the High Court to issue a relief compelling Ziyambi and Mohadi to amend the NPRC Act within six months of the order, to include a provision that would lead to the extension of the commission’s lifespan to January 2028.
The defence counsel, led by Kenias Chimiti from the Attorney-General’s Office, while opposing the application, said what Chinanzvavana wanted from the court was an “incompetent and defective order at law as the torture victim could not seek a constitutional amendment through a court order”.
But Biti said it was a gross violation of the rights of Chinanzvavana and many other victims of human rights abuses by failing to have the NPRC enjoy its constitutional lifespan.
Justice Mafusire noted that section 251 of the Constitution was the most ambiguous provision in the Constitution.