The National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG), a grouping of civic society organisations, has urged the government to censure Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi’s recent pronouncement on Gukurahundi.
Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland recently where he led the Zimbabwean delegation to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Ziyambi said no arrests will be carried out on those who killed and maimed thousands during the Gukurahundi atrocities.
He instead said the perpetrators were long forgiven by the late former president, Robert Mugabe sparking anger among Zimbabweans.
In a statement, the NTJWG said it is greatly concerned by the utterances made by Ziyambi.
“The NTJWG calls the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately censure Minister Ziyambi’s pronouncement, make a public apology to the victims and survivors of Gukurahundi, stop undermining the role of the NPRC, and capacitate the NPRC to enable justice and closure to victims and survivors of the Gukurahundi massacres,” said the grouping.
“The Minister’s statement reflects that the government has no intention of redressing the Gukurahundi massacres, which he loosely referred to as mere ‘disturbances’. He stated that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), whose constitutional mandate is to deal with post-conflict justice, has no mandate to deal with the mass atrocities which occurred during the Gukurahundi. Minister Ziyambi further stated that the government has no mandate to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations due to the broad amnesty declared by former President Robert Mugabe under Clemency Order No 1 of 1990.”
The NTJWG says its position is that the amnesty granted through Clemency Order No 1 of 1990 did not resolve justice and accountability issues relating to the Gukurahundi massacres.
“This position has also been affirmed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has openly declared the need to address this issue, albeit through the engagement of chiefs. In terms of international law, amnesties, in which Clemency Order No 1 of 1990 falls in, do not apply to genocide and crimes against humanity, categories in which the Gukurahundi massacre squarely falls into,” said the NTJWG.
“We remind the Minister and the government of the African Commission‘s position in Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum v Zimbabwe (245/02), where it was pointed out that forestalling the right to a remedy for victims without placing alternative mechanisms encourages impunity and is in breach of Articles 1 and 7(1) of the African Charter.
Minister Ziyambi is also on record denouncing the constitutional mandate of the NPRC, specifically as it relates to addressing Gukurahundi and renouncing the government’s role in resolving this dark epoch of our past.”
The grouping added: “We remind both the government and the Minister that, in terms of Sections 251-253 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the NPRC is responsible for, among others: ensuring post-conflict justice, facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice. The NPRC is thus mandated and obliged to resolve justice and accountability issues relating to the Gukurahundi massacre. The government and the Minister must not disregard the Constitution through any action or utterances which suggests that the Gukurahundi massacre falls outside the ambit of the NPRC’s mandate.”
Peace and reconciliation efforts, the NTJWG said, are and should always be citizen-driven, not led by the State.
“The NTJWG recognizes the efforts made by the NPRC Commissioners through the public consultations, which showed that Gukurahundi was one of the three priority issues raised by citizens,” said the grouping.
“It is, therefore, improper for the government or any minister to unilaterally decide the resolution of a pertinent peace and reconciliation issue without getting an insight from the survivors.”