THE State Security minister will be empowered to force some of the hearings of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to be held in camera to bar certain information from the public, the gazetted Bill says.
Source: Bill to gag National Peace and Reconciliation Commission – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 15, 2017
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
The Bill, regazetted last Friday, is meant to operationalise the commission, which, according to the Constitution, will have its office abolished in 2023.
Zimbabwe has had a dark past after its independence, with many cases of alleged State-sponsored atrocities that include Gukurahundi, Operation Murambatsvina and bloody elections after 2000.
Clause 6 of the Bill reads: “Pursuant to the provisions of section 86 of the Constitution, the minister responsible for national security may, at any stage during an investigation by the Commission, issue and lodge with the Commission a certificate to the effect that the disclosure of any evidence or documentation or class of evidence or documentation is, in his or her opinion, contrary to the public interest on the grounds that it may prejudice the defence, external relations, internal security or economic interests of the State.
“Whereupon, the Commission shall make arrangements for evidence relating to that matter to be heard in camera at a closed hearing and shall take such other action as may be necessary or expedient to prevent the disclosure of that matter,” reads the Bill.
The proposed law is being introduced for the second time after an earlier one was withdrawn from Parliament in May last year.
The issue of transitional justice is taboo within the Zanu PF government, which has shown unwillingness to allow people to openly discuss alleged State abuses.
President Robert Mugabe has in the past set up a commissions of inquiry into Gukurahundi atrocities, but has kept the reports under lock and key three decades after they were presented to him.
The commission’s functions, according to the Constitution, among others, include to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation, to develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes and to bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice.