Despite a shortage of resources, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) must fulfil its constitutional mandate by making sure it gives a voice to victims of past abuses and promote real progressive social change.
The NPRC said it is struggling to fulfil its mandate due to funding constraints, a challenge which critics have said will probably do more harm than good as half measures would preclude many victims from speaking out and will affect the delivery of transitional justice.
NPRC is an independent constitutional body funded by the government and last week the commission repeated it was facing funding challenges, which would affect public hearings where statements of victims of various past conflicts, including the Gukurahundi atrocities are to be recorded.
According to the NPRC Act, the commission is supposed to take care of all the victims’ transportation, meal and accommodation costs as they testify during the course of the public hearings.
The public hearings are yet to be held but NPRC is planning on reducing the number of people to give evidence to 10 per province, each allocated an hour, claiming it cannot afford to fund all the victims.
Analysts urged the government to commit resources to the NPRC, so that it can address past injustices and promote peace building and national healing.
Ibhetshu Likazulu secretary general, Mbuso Fuzwayo, said it was in light of such challenges that people were calling for a community-based approach to truth telling.
“It will be unfortunate to talk to 10 people even in a ward excluding other survivors or victims. People must be given the opportunity to speak and the commission must have enough resources to fulfill its constitutional mandate,” said the long time Gukurahundi activist.
Fuzwayo urged the government to focus on promoting reconciliation by fully funding the NPRC.
“The unfortunate thing about the NPRC is lack of political will, the executive is causing confusion by saying they will give chiefs money for exhumations instead of channelling all the needed support through the NPRC,” he said.
Social analyst , Bernard Magugu, concurred that interviewing few people on the basis of limited funds was retrogressive and would cause ‘second order traumatisation.’
“It means justice for the victims -both the dead and living won’t be realised. This process will be cosmetic and untold truths won’t be said because the government which perpetrated these atrocities is the same one in power pushing this agenda. If the NPRC doesn’t have resources, it is better to shelve the project until resources are realised. Every victim must be interviewed and is their right,” he said.
“It is the right of every victim to appear before a legal structure to give evidence on what really happened. We don’t heal victims based on sampling, that is a fallacy! Gukurahundi brought in a lot of trauma and that trauma has been inherited from grandparents to parents to children born now.”
Critical studies scholar, Khanyile Mlotshwa, said it was hard to comprehend NPRC’s sentiments that it had financial challenges, as people were prepared to come out in numbers to talk about their pain – even without monetary support.
“What the NPRC is saying has something to do with the myth that democracy is expensive. In all honesty, people are ready to come out and make sure their individual stories and experiences with whatever violence are out there,” he said.
The NPRC actually said public hearings were an insurmountable task, as ‘statement taking is not cheap,’ especially if the process was to be done in different areas of the country.
Mlotshwa noted it would be a sign of responsibility for politicians in the government to meet people, particularly the victims half way as part of national healing.
“These politicians must show the same zeal they show during campaigns and come out for the citizens. Being fair to each other should not cost anything. Democracy should never be expensive,” he said.
ZAPU Southern Region Communication Director, Patrick Ndlovu, highlighted the deliberate underfunding of NPRC confirmed their assertions that the reconciliatory programmes were nothing but a public relations stunt for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime.
“We have not had a report from their first-round where the public recommended the release of previous reports of such efforts such as the Dumbuchena and Chihambakwe commissions (on the Gukurahundi massacre where over 20 000 people were killed during the military-led atrocities). The initiative will fail because the regime is not committed to its success,” he said.