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Public hearing on human rights bill abandoned in Masvingo

Public hearing on human rights bill abandoned in Masvingo

By Tichaona Sibanda
21 July 2011

A rowdy and often threatening ZANU PF mob on Thursday disrupted a public 
hearing on the Human Rights Commission Bill at the civic centre in Masvingo 

The consultative meeting, conducted by a Parliamentary group, had to be 
abandoned a few minutes after it started when the ‘hired mob’ began 
toy-toying, singing and denouncing the team.

The group comprised a joint committee of the House of Assembly Portfolio 
Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary 
Affairs and the Senate Thematic Committee on Human Rights.

Team leader for the group, MDC-T Senator for Zaka Misheck Marava, told SW 
Radio Africa he was disappointed ZANU PF hijacked a program meant to empower 
the people of Masvingo through education and discussions about the Bill.

‘Initially people protested that all material about the Bill was in English. 
Since we are well versed in the Bill we opted to use Shona in our 
deliberations and that we would be translating from English to a language 
that everyone understands.

‘They wouldn’t have any of that. They told us to go back to Harare and have 
the material translated into Shona and then come back. We noted their 
concerns but explained it involved a lot of money,’ Marava said.

To the group’s surprise, former ZANU PF MP for Bikita West, Claudius Makova, 
stood up and told the gathering he could barely read or understand the 
material printed in English.

Makova’s statement inflamed the already tension filled hall, which erupted 
into ZANU PF songs and slogans. Makova is also a former Colonel in the army 
and was at one time its spokesperson.

‘They started singing ZANU PF yaramba zvemadhisinyongoro (colloquial for 
ZANU PF against confusion or disorder) and some started hurling insults and 
threatening to manhandle the group, which included MPs and Senators from 
ZANU PF and MDC-N,’ Marava added.

The Senator said for someone like Makova’s status, to behave in that manner, 
was ‘criminal’ as it put the lives of the parliamentary group and others in 
the hall in danger.

‘Even MPs and Senators from ZANU PF tried to calm them down but it was all 
in vain and we were left with no option but to retreat from the venue. This 
is a lost opportunity for people in Masvingo to have contributed to the 
Human Rights Bill,’ the Senator said.

The hearings are open to all and so far the team has been to Chinhoyi, 
Bulawayo, Gweru, and Gwanda. They’re scheduled to be in Mutare on Friday and 
will wind up their program this Saturday in Harare.

The first meeting in Chinhoyi on Monday also had some problems from rowdy 
elements, but it did eventually continue.

The meetings are meant to gather public views on the Bill before it is 
debated in the House of Assembly and later in the Senate. The joint 
committee will produce a report which will be presented in both Houses when 
the Bill comes up for its second reading in due course.

The Bill was only gazetted recently, despite the formation of the inclusive 
government more than two years ago. It is supposed to pave the way for the 
enactment of a legal framework to govern the operations of the human rights 
body and to protect the human rights of all Zimbabweans.

But civic groups have already dismissed the Human Rights Commission, because 
political parties in the unity government agreed to limit its mandate to 
abuses that occurred after February 2009.

The GPA required the establishment of a rights commission, to safeguard 
human rights, investigate past abuses and to promote national healing. But 
as it stands the most violent periods in the country’s history are excluded.

It means thugs and militia groups aligned to ZANU PF will never be brought 
to justice for the horrendous crimes committed during the Gukurahundi and 
the extreme election violence of 2008.


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