NPRC to foster culture of peace
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is an independent Constitutional body mandated with ensuring post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation, including developing programmes that promote national healing, unity and peaceful conflict resolution
New Ziana Reporter, Taka Shambare (TS) caught up with NPRC spokesperson Obert Gutu (OG) on the Commission’s role in elections, its programmes for 2022 and the Gukurahundi issue.
Zimbabwe will hold by-elections in 28 Parliamentary constituencies and over 100 local authority seats on March 26 this year and the harmonised elections next year.
Such elections have in the past been characterised by both inter and intra party violence, while deep rooted ideological differences among political parties and their followers have polarised society.
TS- What is the Commission’s role in ensuring peace during election periods given the fact that the country will hold an election in March this year and a general election next year?
OG-The NPRC, in pursuance of its constitutional mandate as enshrined in Section 252 of the supreme law of the land, is centrally involved in all peace-building initiatives before, during and after elections. Peace-building is at the very core of the NPRC mandate.
Right now, the NPRC has designed and developed an election strategy which is being fine-tuned in time for the ongoing electioneering season. This is a well-thought out and well-crafted strategy that acts as a guiding document as we go about our peace-building duties particularly during this period of election campaigning. Thus, the NPRC calls upon all contesting political parties and individuals to always observe and uphold peace and tolerance as they go about their election campaigns.
TS- What programmes and actions has the Commission lined up in pursuit of its mandate to ensure peaceful elections?
OG – (The) NPRC will be going out in the field to meet and interact with all political players it seeks to foster and sustain a culture of peace and tolerance. We will be holding meetings and workshops with all stakeholders specifically targeted at ensuring that the period before, during and after elections is peaceful. We encourage Zimbabweans to appreciate that without peace, we can never, ever, achieve socio-economic turnaround in our country.
We also encourage people to understand that holding different political views and opinions should never divide us and make us mortal enemies. We are a people together, as Father Zimbabwe, the late Vice President, Dr Joshua Nkomo, used to say. We intend to roll out peace caravans in those areas where by-elections are going to be held as we seek to unite the people of Zimbabwe by promoting peace.
TS-What becomes of political parties whose members engage in political violence?
OG- All candidates who recently successfully filed their nomination papers signed a peace pledge as part of their nomination documents. We understand that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which is constitutionally mandated to run elections in this country, is reaching out to sister independent constitutional commissions such as the NPRC in their programmes of ensuring that elections in Zimbabwe should always be held in a peaceful environment. Of course, participants who violate the peace pledge that they signed when they filed their nomination papers run the real risk of being disqualified if they deliberately and unlawfully violate and breach the terms and conditions of the peace pledge. Delinquent political behaviour will certainly not go unpunished.
TS-Outside elections, what other programmes has the Commission lined up this year?
OG- Our work involves all peace-building initiatives, not just elections. We receive complaints from various persons, both natural and juristic, and we then investigate each and every complaint that falls within our constitutional mandate. Nothing is swept under the carpet. There are absolutely no sacred cows. We are an independent constitutional commission and we endeavour to undertake our work professionally and diligently, without fear or favour. In the latter half of 2021, we carried out field programmes in Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces where we were investigating conflicts arising from mining and other related disputes.
The NPRC has also established Provincial peace committees as one of our milestone achievements in all the country’s 10 provinces. These peace committees are essential in that they offer a mechanism whereby stakeholders from different sectors come together and discuss peace-building initiatives. We have also designed an Early Reporting and Early Warning mechanism to pre-empt the detection of conflict as well as to prevent the escalation of conflicts. The commemoration of the International Day of Peace as well as the launch of the Gender Policy were some of the milestone achievements of the NPRC in 2021
TS-Is the commission adequately resourced to carry out its programs?
OG- The issue of resources is always of major concern. The bulk of our programmes are funded by the Treasury whilst a very small portion is bankrolled by some development partners. We are, of course, very grateful to Treasury for the financial support that they’re giving to the NPRC but we still need a considerable amount of funding in order to fulfil all our programmes throughout the length and breadth of Zimbabwe. Inspite of lack of adequate funding, the NPRC has managed to punch well above its weight ever since the Commission came into existence, thanks to the unwavering dedication and commitment of the Commissioners as well as the Secretariat.
TS-Government recently approved funding for Gukurahundi programmes, how crucial is this towards the reconciliation process?
OG- As the NPRC, we are very pleased that the Government has released funding to traditional leaders to facilitate the processes of finding closure to the Gukurahundi issue. Traditional leaders are custodians of our cultural values, norms and traditions and as such, they play a very crucial and central role in peace-building processes. The NPRC is always ready, willing and able to work together with the traditional leaders in this very noble and important national duty. We have already lined up a series of meetings with the national leadership of the traditional leaders in order to give impetus to our collaborative initiatives in addressing the Gukurahundi issue.
TS- Is the Commission satisfied with the progress made to date in dealing with the Gukurahundi issue and what are some of the Commission’s recommendations towards finding lasting solutions?
OG- The NPRC is confident that we will be able to find closure to the Gukurahundi issue, working closely together with traditional leaders. We are striving to positively influence the construction of a stable, peaceful, united and conflict-free Zimbabwe. We are aware of the daunting task ahead of us but then, as I have already stated, the Commissioners and the secretariat are equal to the task. The successes that we have scored so far bear testimony to the resolve and commitment of the whole team. Working under very difficult and challenging conditions with a shoe-string budget, the NPRC has so far managed to make a huge positive impact in peace-building in our beloved country. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done but there’s absolutely no doubt that we’re on the right track.