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Mukoko challenges continued funding of peace commission



THE continued existence of the moribund National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which has scandalously failed to resolve sensitive national conflicts such as the Gukurahundi genocide and the 2008 election massacres has come under the spotlight, with a leading human rights activist challenging the allocation of public funds to the entity.


Seasoned human rights defender Jestina Mukoko (pictured) recently approached the courts seeking a declaratory order to have the commission disbanded for overstaying its 10-year constitutional mandate.

Mukoko was abducted by state security agents on 3 December 2008 and spent 21 days incommunicado, but no justice was delivered by relevant institutions while the then State Security minister Didymus Mutasa refused to disclose the names of her violators.

The latest High Court application filed on Mukoko’s behalf by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is dated 20 March 2024.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, Parliament of Zimbabwe and Attorney-General Virginia Mabhiza are cited as respondents.

Part of the application reads: “This is an application for a declarator in terms of section 14 of the High Court Act in terms of which I seek relief in the following terms: That the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission established in terms of section 251 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe has ceased to exist as of the 23rd of August 2023 and therefore;
“That the purported allocation of public funds in terms of the National Budget Statement of 2024 to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission is unlawful and is thus null and void. No Order as to costs.”

Outlining her locus standi, Mukoko told the court that the respondents have flagrantly acted outside the law in allocating financial resources in the 2024 National Budget outside the law to an entity that does not exist at law.

“I allege that their actions are contrary to the dictates of the law as set out in the Public Finance Management Act [Chapter 22:19]. They are also imprudent, uneconomic and lack transparency thus in direct violation of tenets of public financial management in terms of our Constitution particularly in terms of section 298(1)(d).

“I believe that I have a direct and substantial interest in the expenditure of public funds being a registered taxpayer in Zimbabwe and thus a contributor to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I am also a citizen of Zimbabwe who is ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe,” submitted Mukoko.

She added that she had dedicated the greater part of her life to public service as a human rights and peace practitioner in Zimbabwe and is an active citizen with a well-known record of advocating for the upholding of laws and constitutional values and keeping public servants accountable to the people.

“My driving force, at a very basic level, may very well be section 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides that Zimbabwe is founded on the respect for the following values and principles (inter alia): Supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms and good governance.”

She submitted that Ncube, who presented the budget, erred in allocating funds to the NPRC, with Parliament caught off side when it passed the budget. Mabhiza is cited for failing to advise the government on the illegality of funding the NPRC after its term expired which is part of her mandate as the top lawyer of the state.

“It is prayed for that the Court declare that the NPRC has ceased to exist by the interpretation of section 251 of the Constitution and therefore that any allocation to it of public funds is unlawful, null and void.

“This application stands to benefit the generality of the Zimbabwean public and thus I do not pray for costs and neither do I believe costs should be sought against me. I am aware that our Courts have been seized with the interpretation of section 251(1) of the Constitution before for which there is no determination on the merits to date. I believe that a pronouncement of the Court on this issue stands to make the law certain,” further reads Mukoko’s application.

She insisted that it is not within the confines of the Public Finance Management Act for the first respondent or any of the respondents to allocate financial resources to an entity which does not exist in terms of the law.

 She added that there is no law that allows public expenditure in favour of the NPRC, saying this event is contrary to section 17 of the above-mentioned Act.

The NPRC at its commencement was led by former Speaker of Parliament Cyril Ndebele who died in 2016. The body was mandated to deal with post-conflict healing and reconciliation. Retired judge Selo Nare took over in 2018, but in all these years, the entity failed to effectively hold to account perpetrators of major conflicts in post-independence Zimbabwe.

The conflicts include the Gukurahundi genocide. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is implicated in the massacres which claimed the lives of 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces.

The NPRC also failed to deliver any healing and reconciliation for the bloody political violence conflict of 2008 in which hundreds of opposition MDC supporters were killed as the late President Robert Mugabe pushed for a grinding victory after being outpolled by the late Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the election.

There was also Operation Murambatsvina which left countless citizens homeless after their houses were demolished by a rampaging state. 

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