BY TATENDA CHITAGU
MASVINGO High Court judge, Justice Joseph Mafusire, has granted an order compelling President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to extend the tenure of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to an effective 10 years as prescribed by the Constitution.
This follows an application by MDC Alliance proportional representation legislator Consilia Chinanzvavana, a 2008 torture survivor, who had taken Mnangagwa to the Masvingo High Court, seeking that the NPRC be operational for 10 years.
The ruling means that the NPRC’s lifespan will be extended to January 5, 2028. The commission 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. However, due to delays in enacting the law to operationalise the NPRC, the commission only came into effect on January 5, 2018.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was first respondent, Vice-President Kembo Mohadi, who oversees the NPRC (second respondent) Mnangagwa (third respondent), NPRC (fourth respondent) and Attorney-General Prince Machaya was the fifth respondent in the application.
Through her lawyer, Tendai Biti, Chinanzvavana argued 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.
In his March 13 ruling, Justice Mafusire agreed that there was a constitutional breach as five years of the commission were eaten away by the failure to operationalise it.
“It is my conclusion that the reference of 10 years in section 251(1) of the Constitution is in relation to the life of the NPRC after its establishment after the effective date, and not the period within which it must be established. Unquestionably, it must have been established immediately after, or as soon as practicable, after the effective date in line with section 324 of the Constitution.
“In the result, except for the prayer of costs, there is nothing wrong or irregular in the nature, form or substance of the relief sought by the applicant. Accordingly, the following order is hereby granted: The NPRC that is established in terms of section 251 of the Constitution shall have tenure of life of 10 years deemed to have commenced on January 2018 with the gazzetting as law of the National Peace and Reconciliation Act, Cap 10:3” Mafusire’s ruling, which did not award costs as the case was a public interest litigation, read.
Mnangagwa’s defence team was led by Kenias Chimiti from the Attorney-General’s Office.