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should be peace ambassadors in their constituencies
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
June 08, 2012
The past few
days have seen newspaper headlines featuring the political violence
in Mashonaland Central Province’s Mudzi District that left
an MDC cadre dead
and scores injured. This is a very sad development that brings back
memories of the violent
2008 election that resulted in many political activists losing
their lives and thousands injured and displaced. It is this political
violence that then gave birth to the current dysfunctional inclusive
government, which has a mammoth task to prepare a peaceful environment
and necessary political and democratic reforms for the next election.
As one of the three arms of government, Parliament
has an important role to play in legislating for this peaceful environment
and overseeing to what extent other agencies of the State such as
the Police are carrying out their constitutional duties.
instills fear in defenceless citizens and discourages them from
freely participating in the electoral process. It is therefore not
surprising why in this country we have the perennial problem of
voter apathy. The House of Assembly this week did an excellent job
to debate and condemn the violence in Mudzi. Allegations were leveled
against two Zanu PF MPs from the area for orchestrating this violence.
They are Newton Kachepa from Mudzi North and Aquilina Katsande from
Mudzi West. In 2008, some of the sitting MPs were identified as
the ring leaders in politically motivated violence. The House must
therefore be applauded for debating such a motion because we expect
genuine representatives of the people to champion peace and tolerance
in their constituencies rather than become the biggest perpetrators
of violence and anarchy.
Members of Parliament
have a role to play in conflict prevention, resolution and peace
building. While conflict within a society is normal, it becomes
a problem when it becomes violent in nature. It is the duty of an
elected Member of Parliament to promote peace through the restoration
of relationships, establishment of justice and the creation of social
systems that serve the needs of the whole population. Peace therefore
is the framework within which conflicts unfold non-violently and
by its oversight nature and legislative functions and responsibilities,
is uniquely positioned to play the leadership role in society and
to strengthen the processes and facets of peace building from the
levels of the grassroots electorate and right up. Because parliaments
are more representative and the legislators more accessible to the
people than the Executive or Judicial branches, there is no doubt
that Parliament has unparalleled potential towards decisive conflict
resolution and national healing. At its most general level, Parliament
is able to contribute towards peace building and conflict prevention
by rallying national consensus around commonly held values and goals
through national policy dialogue.
also have invaluable functions and roles in post-conflict phases
by instituting processes of transitional justice such as reconciliation,
restitution, reparations, and prosecution of offenders and the enactment
of legal instruments that seek to forestall recurrence of conflict.
Above all, Parliament derives this special mandate from its representative
role and diverse nature as a legitimate forum for public debate.
The core functions of law-making, oversight and representation place
Parliament in a strategic position to advance democratic policies
and programmes that address and mitigate the scourge of conflict
legislative function, Parliament can advance the democratization
process and the related structural reforms for purposes of ensuring
basic freedoms and civil liberties. There is need for Parliament
to review all the legislation related to conflict prevention and
peace building and advocate for any necessary reforms. It is also
the duty of the legislative branch to promote and protect human
rights at the national level. This is why the Human
Rights Commission Bill must be passed as a matter of urgency
in order to operationalise the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
All new or existing legislation should be consistent with human
rights obligations while all repressive laws must be repealed. Keeping
the Public Order and
Security Amendment Bill parked in the Senate is a disservice
to a nation yearning for peace and human freedom.
There is now
a well-recognized correlation between conflict and poverty. With
a large percentage of the Zimbabwean population classified as very
poor, such high poverty levels are bound to fuel violent conflict.
This correlation suggests that the Parliament of Zimbabwe has an
unequivocal role in conflict management, not just by addressing
the contentious issues, but by helping in alleviating poverty, particularly
in the conflict prone regions of the country.
faced by Parliament include historical injustices, human rights
issues, election manipulation and use of provocative language by
leaders. MPs have a responsibility to act lawfully and formulate
policies that are meaningful and responsive to the needs of the
people. This can be achieved by allowing freedom for individual
MPs, minimizing the whipping system and the active oversight of
parliamentary committees. To prevent conflict, parliaments must
recognize that societies are multicultural, multi-racial and multi-linguistic
and conflict can arise if certain groups feel discriminated against.
Parliament must connect citizens with the State, incorporate citizens’
concerns in security laws and policies and mediate where diversity
and competing views are represented and articulated.
In view of the
moribund state that the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation
finds itself - together with an equally not-so-effective GPA
and its state organs - the role of Parliament in intra-State conflict
resolution and national healing therefore becomes unquestionably
imperative. The incident in Mudzi clearly shows that cases of political
violence will continue to contaminate the political landscape. Parliamentarians
must be united in fighting this scourge and unequivocally demand
that the responsible authorities prosecute the wrongdoers in a conclusive,
non-partisan and professional manner. MPs must be seen to be peace
ambassadors in their constituencies without any shades of doubt.
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