Committees to gather views on Peace Bill

Source: Committees to gather views on Peace Bill | The Herald March 8, 2017

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security will next week embark on another round of public hearings to gather views on the revised National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill. Government withdrew the Bill last year after members of the public expressed reservations on some provisions during public hearings conducted by the same committees.

Zvimba West MP Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi (Zanu-PF) chairs the committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs while Mashonaland Central Senator Damien Mumvuri (Zanu-PF) chairs the Senate Thematic Committee on Peace and Security.

Parliament’s Legal Committee chaired by Mudzi South MP Cde Jonathan Samukange (Zanu-PF) had also issued an adverse report in Parliament on the Bill before it was withdrawn to allow for further consultations.

According to a schedule published by Parliament, public hearings on the Bill will start on March 13 countrywide and will run until March 18, 2017 and will be divided in two groups.

“The Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the Thematic Committee on Human Rights and the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security will hold Public Hearings on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill H.B.2, 2017 from the 13th to the 18th of March 2017,” reads the notice published by the administration of Parliament. “All those who will be putting on military uniforms, signs of ranks, flags or badges and political party regalia will not have access to the public hearing.”

The committees will start their hearings on Monday in Victoria Falls and Masvingo respectively, on Tuesday they will be at Bulawayo Large City Hall and Mutare Civic Centre while on Wednesday they will be at Plumtree town council and Marondera’s Mbuya Nehanda hall.

On Thursday they will be at Gweru Civic Centre and Bindura’s Tendai Hall while on Friday they will be in Chinhoyi and conduct the hearings in Harare the following day.

Government withdrew the Bill after stakeholders expressed reservations on the powers conferred to the responsible Minister, which they felt undermined the independence of the commission.

Of particular concern was Clause Eight of the Bill that seeks to empower the Minister of State Security to issue a “ministerial certificate” during an investigation by the commission, barring evidence to be given in public, but in camera.

Stakeholders argued that such discretion should be exercised by the Commission which will be seized with such an investigation.

The new Bill stipulates that 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.

In that case the Commission should 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:

“Provided that the Commission shall forthwith inform and explain to anyone who may be aggrieved by the issuance of such certificate of his or her right to appeal to the Commission against the issuance of such certificate,” reads the Bill.

An aggrieved person is also entitled to approach the Administration Court if not satisfied by the decision of the Commission regarding the issuance of the certificate.