By Auxilia Katongomara
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has defended the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Bill, despite criticism from both zanu-pf and MDC-T legislators, as well as members of the public. The VP said those who were shooting down the proposed law were suffering from fear of the unknown. VP Mphoko, who is responsible for national healing, said this on Tuesday as the National Assembly debated the Bill, with MPs from across the floor expressing reservations on the proposed law.
The MPs said there were critical issues that included compensation, tenure of the Commission, justice and amnesty that had to be addressed.
The criticism of the Bill came a week after the Justice Committee and thematic Committees of Human Rights and of Peace and Security said the Bill was poorly received by the public as it failed to address some relevant issues.
Responding to some legislators who were against the Bill, VP Mphoko said the Bill could not be wished away as it was a constitutional requirement.
“I think it is important to guide some of our members,” he said. “What is happening in this country is that the President cannot operate outside the Constitution; nobody can.
“You have been demanding us to come here to Parliament, using the Constitution. So, there is nothing amiss with this Bill because it is here in the Constitution. Nobody here, even if you think you want the Bill not to be discussed, you cannot clear it from the Constitution. First and foremost, let us fulfil the Constitution.”
VP Mphoko said the Bill was for the good of the nation and he would work hard to ensure that it was passed.
“Mr Speaker Sir, we have an obligation, I have an obligation charged to me by the President and Parliament and I want to make sure that the Bill passes through,” he said.
“It is very important. Only the fear of the unknown can scare the people, otherwise this Bill is for the nation.
“It is not for me, not for you and not for anybody else; it is for the nation.”
MDC-T deputy president Ms Thokozani Khupe said she was worried about the Commission’s tenure.
“According to the Constitution, the Commission is to exist for 10 years,” she said. “If we look at what is happening right now, four years have already been lost. How are those four years going to be compensated?
“Are we going to amend the Constitution because it is a constitutional matter so that the four years are incorporated, or are you going to do something to make sure that those four years lost are incorporated?
“I do not think that the Commission will be able to do this work in six years because this is a mammoth task Mr Speaker Sir; a lot has to be done.”
zanu-pf Buhera West legislator Cde Oliver Mandipaka said the Bill was opening up old wounds.
“You cannot have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission 17 years past the conflict,” he said.
“What are we trying to achieve here? I am at pains Mr Speaker to accept this Bill because if you look at countries that have no peace and have disturbances, it is because of these issues that we are trying to bring into existence.
“These are issues to do with tribes, ethnicity and so forth. I think that it is not good for our democracy and our country.”
Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba said the Bill would destroy the country and must be scrapped.
“Honourable Speaker, people are talking about Gukurahundi issues and other such issues,” he said.
“If that is the case, Mr Speaker, let me end here and say that we will not agree. I do not like this Bill whether you accept it or not. I am not saying the Executive is wrong.
“The Executive has done well to bring this Bill, but people talk about corruption. They discuss issues about corruption. If the Executive cannot see, clearly this Bill will destroy the country. I will not allow it.”