Auxilia Katongomara Bulawayo Bureau
THE National Peace and Reconciliation Commission has suspended consultations that were expected to start today after human rights campaigners went to court for the process to be shelved pending the appointment of the commission’s chairperson.
The commission which was appointed by former President Robert Mugabe has been operating without a chairperson following the death of Mr Cyril Ndebele in October 2016. The Constitution says the President must appoint the commission’s chairperson after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
The commission has been functioning with the following members: deputy chairperson commissioner Lillian Chigwedere and commissioners Patience Chiradza, Choice Ndoro, Charles Masunungure, Geoffrey Chada, Leslie Ncube and Godfrey Chekenyere. The NPRC had lined up stakeholder consultations in Gwanda and Bindura to set the ball rolling in fulfilling its mandate.
The commission’s plans were thrown into disarray after the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum filed an urgent chamber application challenging the process. Commissioner Chigwedere yesterday said the human rights organisation’s court action had led to the suspension of the stakeholder consultations.
“The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission received a notice of urgent chamber application on February 6 filed by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum interdicting the Commission from ‘undertaking any stakeholder engagements or any work that is mandated by the constitution to carry out’ until a substantive chairperson of the Commission has been appointed,” said Comm Chigwedere.
She said this had resulted in the postponement of consultations to a date to be advised.
“The NPRC assures the nation of its commitment and readiness to execute its constitutional mandate,” said Comm Chigwedere.
Consultations were scheduled to start today at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic in Gwanda in Matabeleland South province and Bindura University Hall in Bindura in Mashonaland Central province this morning. The Commission said the main objectives of the consultations were to enhance stakeholder awareness of the NPRC, its mandate and functions.
The Constitution says the chairperson of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission must be a person who has been qualified for at least seven years to practice as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe. The NPRC only began its work last month following the signing into law of the relevant bill by President Mnangagwa.
The NPRC has a serious backlog of cases of work, as it has lost five years of its 10-year lifespan. It was supposed to be operational from 2013, when the Constitution was promulgated, but that did not happen due to lack of an enabling Act to operationalise it.
Presenting the 2018 Justice Ministry budget recently, Justice, Parliamentary and Legal affairs portfolio chairperson Advocate Fortune Chasi disclosed that the Commissioners were working from home as Government had not yet secured their offices.
According to the NPRC Act, the head office and any other offices of the Commission shall be situated at places to be determined by the Commission in consultation with the minister and minister of finance.
“All the offices established by the Commission must be accessible to members of the public, including people who use public transport as well as people with disabilities. (3) Subject to its mandate and for the purpose of carrying out its functions the Commission shall — (a) operate throughout the country; and (b) during discharge of its mandate, request support from existing institutions including any independent Commission, local governments, civil society organisations, media, faith-based institutions and other institutions whose assistance the Commission may deem necessary for the execution of its mandate and that will not compromise its independence,” reads part of the law.