Heal Zimbabwe notes with concern the commencement of public hearings on the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill without prior public awareness raising. The process is already flawed as it does not have adequate geographical and demographic coverage, wide enough to gather representative public views for a viable and inclusive national healing legislation. Only 15 public hearings are being held, commencing today the 11th to the 20th of April 2016.
While the public hearings are a welcome opportunity for survivors of violence and communities seeking healing, justice and reconciliation, the Parliamentary process ignores the import of educating and dispersing knowledge to the public prior to consultations. The public are barely going to input to the Bill which they do not know of its contents. It is of great importance to ensure that people are aware of the contents of the bill before launching public consultations. The dearth of information particularly in rural communities regarding the Commission which naturally should be a Commission that deals and works with survivors directly, reveal gross inconsistencies. It is Heal Zimbabwe’s firm belief that soon after swearing in of the NPRC Commissioners in December 2015, Parliament should have commenced public awareness on the bill in preparation for the public hearings. The move to rush the public to attend public hearings on the bill without adequate information on the bill, is a violation of Section 62 the Constitution which provides for access to information where every Zimbabwean citizen has the right of access to any information held by the state or institution or agency of government. The move to give a ten day period for public hearings shows lack of sincerity on the part of Parliament. The possibility of carrying out hearings on the bill within ten days across the 10 provinces, defeat logic and common sense.
Only 15 public meetings are being held in a country with 59 districts and 1 200 wards. Worse still, all the public hearings are being held in urban areas yet the most affected victims and survivors of violence reside in rural areas where cases of political violence were very high. Like other provinces, Manicaland Province has only 1 meeting in Mutare making it difficult for people in Checheche, Mapungwana or Nyamaropa to attend. Interested participants will have to travel hundreds of kilometres. 6 public hearings in Hwange, Plumtree, Lupane, Marondera, Chinhoyi and Bulawayo will be held late afternoon from 2pm which leaves members of the public with little time to contribute. This also implies that in some instances, participants will have pay for accommodation. Given the economic hardships being experienced by many, the cost to attend the hearings remains beyond the reach of many.
HZT is also greatly concerned about the silence of political parties regarding the NPRC Bill and public hearings yet their members are either perpetrators or victims of human rights violations. As involved parties, we urge them to encourage their members to meaningfully participate in the public hearings to ensure the NPRC does not become one of the many docile Commissions but fulfil its mandate of justice, reconciliation and healing.
Heal Zimbabwe conducted public meetings on the NPRC Bill (between January and March 2016) where it discovered that majority of the participants expressed lack of knowledge on the NPRC functions and the gazetted Bill. We therefore, urge the Parliament to increase the number of public meetings to improve geographical coverage of its consultations. Public awareness raising campaigns remain a crucial exercise. Most importantly, Heal Zimbabwe encourages members of the public to mobilize their peers to participate in the public hearings. Heal Zimbabwe under its NPRC #participatetohealzimbabwe campaign will closely monitor the public hearings and other follow on processes to gauge whether the voice of the affected is taken into consideration.