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Human Rights Commission, welcome but not enough...as Civil Society calls for the urgent setup of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Zimbabwe


"It might not be the right body to do all that which has to be done, without putting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission together" (Okay Machisa, 2012)

The Chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and National Director for Zimbabwe Human Rights Association Mr. Okay Machisa, speaking at a Talk Show hosted by the Coalition, welcomed the near finalization of the enactment of an enabling Act for the Human Rights Commission. He however lamented the fact that as a stand alone mechanism, the Commission, especially in light of its mandate and cut off date, would not be sufficient to address people's quest for justice, especially on past atrocities. Mr. Machisa advocated for two things; justice for victims and on perpetrators through the use of existing laws, inspite of the passing of the HRC Bill, as well as additional mechanisms like the Truth and Reconciliation commission to look at the past. He gave empirical evidence of countries such as Liberia which set up a TRC in 1993 which was able to look as far back as 1979.

 

While making her contribution at the same meeting, Ms Irene Petras of the Zimbabwe lawyers for Human Rights, expressed pleasure to the establishment of the HRC and the introduction of the Bill. She went on to say that, "it is important for us to celebrate in some form the establishment of the HRC. The HRC is a new brand, a new body that holds promise €. She encouraged people to participate in the process of establishing the HRC, stating that, "as people in this country who want to rely on a mechanism which would be able to deal with present abuses and those which might happen in the future, we need to make sure that we are part of the pressure to make sure that the commission is independent, properly resourced and that it is able to carry out its job without political interference €. She also highlighted on the need to have some form of mechanism which can deal with past human rights abuses. "I believe that if we don't reflect on the past we risk repeating the mistakes we made in the past, that mechanism must be set up with the same urgency that the HRC is being set up right now €.

 

 

Speaking at the same meeting, the Chairperson of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Honourable Douglas Mwonzora admitted that as a stand alone mechanism the HRC would not satisfy people's hunger for justice on past violations. In his address, Hon Mwonzora said, "that there has been injustices in the past, is well known, and therefore human rights abuses fall into two categories, with the first being the historical injustices, those that have already happened and the second which are the current and future abuses €. Mr. Mwonzora emphasised the fact that The HRC deals with the current and future situations, and not with historical injustices or abuses. He further stated that the main purpose of the HRC was to prevent, and investigate the current and future violations. He however refused the notion that they were abandoning the past, and stated that a mechanism to deal with historical injustices akin to a TRC would be put in place.

 

 

Dr Ibbo Mandaza of Southern African Political Economic Series Trust(SAPES) shared the same views with other speakers, that the HRC was very much welcome and would go a long way in dealing with the current and future human rights abuses. He however indicated that he was not happy with the approach that justice should be brought only to the post colonial crimes and atrocities. He indicated that one has to raise retrospective questions emphasising the need to go back into the colonial period as well.

 

"I am bit disturbed as a historian that Zimbabweans tend to highlight the post colonial rightly so with the omission of the colonial. As much as we discuss the current and recent past l feel we should also discuss the historical mischief, l agree that the idea of a TRC is in order €.

 

All the panelists including the audience agreed that there is need to make sure that the commission is independent and that there should be another mechanism in place to deal with past atrocities. Honourable Mwonzora assured that audience that there was great likelihood that the new constitution for Zimbabwe might deal with a mechanism that would ensure that past human rights abuses are dealt with.

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