HARARE – Civic society organisations are not convinced that the commission of inquiry set up by President Emmerson Mnangagwa will do a thorough job, citing alleged political bias on the part of some of its members.
The organisations, which include the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) are equally concerned with the limiting terms of reference outlined by Mnangagwa.
Yesterday, ZimRights said it hopes that the commission will not seek to absolve anyone because of their privileged position in society, but seek to impartially establish the truth and justice for the victims.
The human rights watchdog said it was unfortunate that local persons appointed to the commission have a record of publicly supporting Zanu PF ahead of the 2018 elections or have already blamed the opposition for the incident being investigated, which raises concerns about their independence.
“Equally worrying is that the terms of references set and publicised by the president seem to skirt the issue of the role and responsibility of the security forces.
“The conduct of the commission should be so as to ensure adherence to the Constitution, promotion of human rights, respect for the sacrosanctity of human life and eradication of impunity,” ZimRights said.
Political analyst Piers Pigou said while the inclusion of certain Zimbabwean elements raises eyebrows, the introduction of international elements should be applauded.
“There are cogent concerns about the terms of reference which appear restrictive. The commission, however, has an opportunity to extend these, and an opportunity should be given for interested Zimbabwean parties to make representations to the commission on these,” said Pigou.
“I am concerned that there is no commitment to a public process or to making the Commission’s findings public.
In a statement, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) said while it is the prerogative of the president to set up such inquiries in the manner he deems fit, Zimbabwe already has independent commissions that could have otherwise dealt with the crisis.
The ERC is particularly concerned that no reference was made to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, which has the constitutional mandate to investigate human rights violations including during elections.
“Could this be a reflection of the president’s attitude towards Chapter 12 institutions?” wondered ERC.
It said while foreign commissioners give an impression of credibility in the inquiry, Zimbabwe’s sovereignty has to be guided through the empowerment, recognition and support of domestic institutions to deliver their constitutional mandate.
“The impression created by subcontracting and outsourcing a function that could easily be handled by domestic institutions is an obsession to impress the international community at the expense of strengthening domestic institutions and processes,” ERC said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has expressed reservations over the composition of the commission, saying it was dominated by the incumbent’s loyalists.
CiZC said the inquiry was aimed at pacifying the international community on the perceived state recklessness which led to innocent souls being lost.
“It is calculated to absolve the State of wrong doings through this compromised commission and a carefully structured methodology and terms of reference which starts from the point of innocence yet, in real fact the perpetrators are known as captured in the video clips on the Internet,” it said.
Media analysts Rashweat Mukundu said the president has already taken a position on this matter and the so-called inquiry was a waste of time.
“No one sets up an inquiry to investigate criminality that is in black and white. ED can help by having rogue soldiers who shot civilians arrested and tried and separate the army from political and civilian matters,” Mukundu said.
Political analyst Vivid Gwede said the commission’s terms of reference appeared inclined towards a certain outcome.
“What people would want is an impartial approach with a view of unearthing the truth and establish justice. Therefore, one hopes that the issue of who sent soldiers and how the shooting resulted will be illuminated upon.
“But already some of the local commissioners appear to have already made their positions on the matter known before even they were appointed to the Commission. How then can they be independent?
“One hopes this will not be a premeditated witch hunt targeting the opposition with no responsibility being assumed by the ruling establishment. It will be a sham,” said Gwede.