via No cash for rights body, four years on 06 July 2014
A COMMISSIONER with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has lamented the government’s continued reluctance to finance the organisation which is supposed to probe rampant abuses blamed mostly on state agents and President Robert Mugabe’s militant followers.
Speaking at a meeting organised by Zimbabwe’s civic groups in Harare last Wednesday, Joseph Kurebwa, a commissioner with the ZHRC, said the commission was in dire need of at least $2 million from treasury to be fully functional.
“Regrettably, we have not been having much by way of resources coming to the Commission, to the extent that to this date, four years on, we are still negotiating terms and conditions,” Kurebwa said.
“We are not riding on a gravy train. Only (Tuesday), we were having a meeting with the Minister of Justice exploring ways on how government could assist the Commission and become fully operationalised. We are still very thin on the ground owing to resource constraints.”
Since ZHRC’s formation four years back, it has depended on international donor agencies – some viewed hostile to government – to fund its operations.
Some of the agencies include the European Union, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, United Nations Development Programme and the Norwegian Embassy.
Said Kurebwa: “These are the only partners, otherwise the major stake should be the responsibility of the government of Zimbabwe which should be looking into the welfare of Commissioners and the secretariat.”
ZHRC was founded March 31, 2010 under the erstwhile inclusive government’s Global Political Agreement and was among the four commissions that were assembled by what was overly a shaky tripartite administration involving Mugabe’s dominant Zanu PF and two MDC factions.
The Commission only started being functional a good two years later, 12 October 2012, after government enacted the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act to operationalise its functions.
Its mandate included among many other, receiving and investigating rights violations in a country torn apart by political conflict.
But even before its establishment, affected Zimbabweans and rights groups had grown largely disillusioned by government’s apparent protection of Zanu PF linked rights abusers as the Commission was only bound by the relevant law to deal with complaints touching on the period post February 2009.
Most of the country’s post-independence transgressions were committed during early 1980s when then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe dispatched his feared Five Brigade to Matebeleland and Midlands provinces, ostensibly on a counter-dissident operation which went on to claim innocent civilians.
Years later in 2008, Mugabe would unleash his militant supporters again on perceived supporters of his MDC opponents during a violent presidential run-off campaign, killing what the opposition claims were over 200 of its followers.
Mugabe’s party has argued if the rights Commission were to cover these cases, it (ZHRC) would then have to go back to the pre-independence period under white rule, presenting an untenable situation.