Building a Sustainable Human Rights Culture in Zimbabwe

May 31, 2016

In September 2014, Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) embarked on a project funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE) and Hivos Southern Africa titled “Building a Sustainable Human Rights Culture in Zimbabwe”.  It aims to promote interaction between duty bearers and citizens in rural Zimbabwe and build a sustainable human rights culture

ZIMCET and HZT conducted capacity-building workshops targeted at 165 peace leaders in Gokwe, Zaka, Bikita, Buhera, Mazowe, Murewa and Hurungwe districts. The trainings included raising awareness on independent commissions such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC), as well as on the role of traditional leaders as provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which was adopted in 2013.

Following the gazetting of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill in December 2015, ZIMCET and HZT analyzed the contents of the Bill and mobilized some 156 peace committee members and animators at community level to participate in Public Hearings for the Bill held in April 2016 in Kwekwe, Masvingo, Mutare, Marondera, Bindura and Chinhoyi. 

The analysis of the Bill ensured that the peace building structures were fully prepared to make recommendations despite open intimidation and other tactics used by some members of the Parliamentary Committees to limit public participation. Below follow some of the submissions made by peace committees, peace clubs and animators:

  • There is need to remove the excessive powers given to the Minister as such powers compromise the independence of the commission as provided for in Section 235 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. In particular the Commission must be given powers to recruit its own staff, raise its own funds and report directly to Parliament.
  • Clause 7 (1) of the Bill calls for the Commission to publish a notice in the gazette and local newspapers before conducting an investigation informing the public of its intentions. Participants recommended that this clause be struck from the Bill as it gave perpetrators a chance to flee, tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses and victims.
  • The Bill should elaborate on victim and witness protection as it is currently vague on the subject.
  • The Bill should incorporate traditional mechanisms of healing and reconciliation.
  • The Bill should include issues of rehabilitation for both victims and perpetrators.
  • The Bill does not emphasize the pillars of transitional justice such as truth telling, trauma healing, healing, restoration, among others.
  • Participants called for the prosecution of those who sent people to commit human rights abuses.

ZIMCET and HZT also submitted written submissions to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. As a result of this combined pressure, the NPRC Bill was withdrawn. ZIMCET and HZT believe that an efficient, independent and effective NPRC is important in redressing past human rights abuses, ending impunity and laying a solid foundation for the respect and promotion of human rights in Zimbabwe.