via Reject Peace, Reconciliation Bill, MPs urged – NewsDay Zimbabwe April 7, 2016
Parliamentarians should take a re-look at the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill, which has been tabled before Parliament as it is unconstitutional, legal experts have said.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Tafadzwa Christmas, a lawyer with the Centre for Applied Legal Research, told MPs at a workshop 05in Harare yesterday that the Bill in its present format violated the Constitution.
The MPs were drawn from thematic committees on Human Rights and Peace and Security, as well as the portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“According to the Constitution, the NPRC should be an independent body empowered to implement mechanism to develop peace and reconciliation in the country. It is empowered to implement strategies to foster peace and cohesion, but if you look at the enabling Bill, it proposes the opposite,” Christmas said.
“A closer look at the Bill tells you that the commission, which at law should be independent, has been reduced to be a department within the ministry whose mandate is to recommend to the minister with no powers to enforce anything. This means that the minister has the ultimate authority on what is to be done by the commission.”
Nyasha Chishakwe, the executive director at the Centre for Applied Legal Research, said MPs should also move to have the minister responsible for national healing not to issue a certificate of non-disclosure on evidence that could be considered sensitive by the government as this curtailed its independence.
The Parliamentary Legal Committee last week produced a damning report on the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill stating that it did not conform to the Constitution.
The legal advisory arm of Parliament cited eight clauses that it said were in contravention of the Constitution, which range from the administration of the peace commission to the manner it is required to despatch its duties, but would have a net effect of whittling down the parent ministry’s role in the day-to-day running of the commission.
The report criticised the use of ministerial certificates in investigations and hearing of cases in camera, saying it would be difficult to evaluate if justice was achieved.
The committee said ministerial certificates should be subject to judicial review.
MDC-T Senators Theresa Makone and David Chimhini questioned why the Executive would want to control the operations of an independent commission through the minister responsible as this would defeat the purpose of the commission.
The committees are yet to conduct public hearings on the proposed law before Parliament starts debating on it and approve its changes.