Mugabe stymies Human Rights, Electoral Bills


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ZIMBABWE – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is sitting on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and Electoral Amendment Bill, with both bills still to be gezetted.

Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the first body tasked with investigating cases of rights abuses – was sworn-in in March 2010

The ZHRC – chaired by Prof Reg Austin, a law professor and former Commonwealth secretariat’s head of Legal and Constitutional Affairs division – is still not operational because the requisite legislation is yet to be gazetted.

The Electoral Amendment Bill, expected to create the framework for the forthcoming polls is also stalled.The Electoral Amendment Bill is meant to address issues concerning voting and elections. It is also one of the issues that are outstanding in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

These two bills are a part of envisaged reforms ahead of key elections.

More than seven weeks after these two urgent Bills were passed by Parliament on 19 August, they have still not been gazetted as Acts.

Delay in opening of Parliament initially earmarked for July 24 has also held up the process as the President has not issued the necessary proclamations for proroguing and opening Parliament.

Currently, Both Houses have Adjourned until Tuesday 9th October.

It was widely hoped that the ZHRC will probe the 2008 massacres when hit squads and Zanu PF militia driving cars without number plates in an unimaginable frenzy abducted real and perceived enemies of Mugabe and Zanu PF and in 90 days of rampage murdered an estimated 200 of their MDC supporting neighbours.

Desperate to break the violent cycle of revenge following the formation of an inclusive government between President Mugabe, his longtime rival now Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube in 2009, the new government formed the ZHRC.

But UHN rights chief Navi Pillay during a May visit to Zimbabwe said the ZHRC should not be used as a path to reconciliation in a country beginning to step from the shadow of one of the 21st century’s most monstrous crimes.

“There should never be impunity for serious crimes, and justice is essential if peace and stability are to endure,” she said. “However, this would be too great a task for the Human Rights Commission, whose prime role is to deal with current and future human rights situations, to advise the government and parliament, to help draft human-rights-friendly legislation and to accept and assess complaints from members of the public as well as to promote and protect human rights in general.

“Instead, I have urged all parties to consider setting up another body or bodies – such as a Truth and Reconciliation Committee or a Commission of Inquiry – to look at major human rights violations that took place some time ago,” said the former South African jurist.

Pillay said Zimbabwe must follow in the footsteps of its neighbour South Africa where a Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, healed that hurting nation after the demise of apartheid, which was followed by that country’s first national universal suffrage elections in 1994.

There are widespread calls to put Zimbabwe’s 2008 genocide’s main architects and perpetrators on trial. Amazing stories have been collected from survivors who are willing to testify.

Many of them are however cynical about the GNU’s commitment to national healing, and many are calling the ongoing national healing effort – led by the troika of national healing ministers John Nkomo, Sekai Holland and Moses Mzila-Ndlovu – a money-making enterprise for bureaucrats. For the ministers, far more urgent than punishing the ringleaders is the challenge of finding a way for the killers and survivors to live together peaceably.

Critics say the troika of national healing ministers has proved inadequate to process the huge number of rights violations and provide some sense of closure, and hope lied with the ZHRC which the UN now insists must not probe historical atrocities and focus on future violations.

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