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No Truth Commission in Zimbabwe: Chinamasa

By Correspondent

ZIMBABWE GOVERNMENT has rejected any prospects of a Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, arguing such bodies were invalid.

This was revealed by Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa who claimed evidence showed that such bodies failed to achieve anything in countries they were established.

Minister Chinamasa who is also a Zanu-PF politburo member, said this on Wednesday night during a public meeting organised by the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe.

He reiterated that calls for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses since the colonial era would not help the country.

The meeting was held under the theme, "13th of February, 2009 ZHRC cut off date. A classic example of politically sponsored historical amnesia or a practical arrangement for a working human rights commission."

Representatives of the MDC formations also defended the cut off date that was set in the ZHRC Bill that was recently passed by the House of Assembly.

"We set up the organ on national healing and essentially we were saying it is far better to prevent conflict, to mediate and have early warning systems.

"Calls for a TRC are only good on paper, they have not done anything, look at South Africa, the victims are still there and the perpetrators are still moving free.

"It is very difficult to go back 500 years and get to the bottom of it (alleged crimes). Let us please expend our energies on the present and the future . . . those who want to rake up the past can do so, but we will see where it goes," Minister Chinamasa said.

He also said the country's criminal laws dealt with the majority of human rights abuses and said issues that should be up for discussion should be on strengthening police to fight crime.

"The majority of human rights violations are dealt with by criminal law, the rapes, indecent assaults, the house breakings, these are all human rights violations.

"The organisation on the forefront of combating human rights violations is the police, but they also need assistance in witnesses and other specifics.

"A lot of crimes are said to have been committed without any substantiation. If a crime has been committed the first port of call is not the newspaper but the police because by the time the story is published the evidence would be concealed. If there are problems with the police that is what we should investigate."

MDC-T spokesperson, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, said his party had supported the cut off date of February 13, 2009 as they believed the new constitution would provide mechanisms to deal with past crimes.

"It is possible that in the coming constitution we may have a TRC therefore we supported the ZHRC Bill.

"We must arrest injustice and we must make sure we arrest human rights abusers. Why we agreed to the cut off date is that we are confident that there is another organ that is coming that will deal with that (past crimes)," he said.

Mr Mwonzora accused the police of partiality in dealing with human rights issues saying this had prompted the creation of the ZHRC.

MDC's director of policy and research coordination, Mr Qhubani Moyo, said his party agreed to the cut off date as it was the only practical way to deal with the issues under the current political dispensation.

"As Zimbabweans we need to be sincere and work constructively on what is in the best interests of our country.

"The current set up and the hung Parliament doesn't augur well for the extreme positions some of you want," he said.

The ZHRC Bill was passed in the House of Assembly last week as part of measures to operationalise work of the commission that was appointed in 2009.

The Bill has been on the table for over two years due to disagreements by the three political parties especially on the period from where it will start investigations into human rights abuses.