by Faith Zaba
THE search is currently on for nine National Peace and Reconciliation Commissioners, with parliament interviewing at least 29 candidates last week who hope to sit in the commission tasked with promoting national healing, peace and reconciliation in the country.
The NPRC is provided for by Section 251 of the constitution.
unlike the other independent commissions, the NPRC is likely to deal with the country’s most controversial and divisive issues related to gross human rights abuses that have occurred since Independence in 1980, particularly in the run-up to general elections often fraught with violence and rigging claims.
It will be faced with very grave chapters in the country’s history, including the emotive Gurukurahundi massacres of the 1980s in which about 20 000 people died in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions at the hands of the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade, destruction of property, abductions and murders during elections, farm invasions and disappearances of people perceived to be anti-government.
The commission is an important vehicle for promoting reconciliation and reducing past tensions, thereby establishing the facts about human rights violations and their causes, responding to the needs of victims to recount their ordeals and proposing reforms and recommendations that may contribute to the strengthening of democracy in the future.
But for the commission to be effective, according to the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG), it needs commissioners of unquestionable integrity, with impeccable human rights records. They must also possess demonstrable commitment and leadership to the cause of human rights, conflict transformation, conciliation and mediation.
NTJWG is a platform established by 46 non-state Zimbabwean transitional justice stakeholders to help ensure past and present human rights violations are dealt with.
Politicians and political activists have no place in the commission if it is to effectively discharge its duties by dealing with past violations, NTJWG says.
Starting this week, the Zimbabwe Independent puts the spotlight on shortlisted candidates interviewed by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, which will forward the names of 12 successful candidates to President Robert Mugabe for final selection.
Out of the 12, Mugabe will appoint eight and a chairperson of the commission.
Notables on the list are former High Court judges Simbi Mubako and Selo Maselo Nare, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, Chad Gandiya, former Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe president Goodwill Shana and lawyer and spirit medium Luta Shaba, who is also the founding executive of Women’s Trust.
Simbi Veke Mubako
Born in 1936 in Zaka, Mubako was a minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the first cabinet of Independent Zimbabwe.
He held several cabinet posts and served as a High Court Judge. Most recently he was the Zimbabwe ambassador to the United States. He is currently working as a legal and political consultant. He is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) committee of elders.
Mubako began his career as a journalist and was one of the founders of the Weekly News and Moto magazine in 1958.
He graduated with a BA degree in political science and history from Roma College, Lesotho and later obtained law degrees from Trinity College (Dublin) under a Sida scholarship, a Master of Laws (LLM) and Master in Philosophy (MPhil) in constitutional law at the London School of Economics and an LLM at Harvard University and Knightsbridge University, UK.
He also obtained a diploma from the University of Oslo. He was a lecturer in law at Southampton University (UK) from 1976 to 1979.
Like many intellectuals and university students, Mubako joined Zanu after the split of the nationalist movement in August 1963.
He lectured at the University of Zambia where he provided legal advice to detainees.
Mubako worked closely with the late Zanla commander, Josiah Tongogara during the struggle and now chairs the Josiah Magama Tongogara Legacy Foundation.
He torched a storm in 2012 when he proposed that Boxing Day (December 26) be declared Tongogara Day.
In 1976, he led the Zanu legal team to the Geneva Conference and the Lancaster House conference in 1979. He played a key role in the crafting of the Mgagao declaration, authored by youngmilitary officers at the main Zanla training camp in Tanzania.
The declaration laid the basis for the removal of Ndabaningi Sithole as leader of Zanu. It also laid the foundation for the elevation of President Robert Mugabe as leader of the party at a special congress at Chimoio two years later in 1977.
Mubako was in the Zanu PF group that included the late Tongogara, Josiah Chinamano, Herbert Ushewokunze, Edson Zvobgo, Walter Kamba and Josiah Tungamirai, who attended the Lancaster House talks.
He was a professor and Dean at the University of Lesotho until he returned to Zimbabwe in 1980 and was appointed Minister of Justice in Mugabe’s first cabinet.
He was later appointed Home Affairs minister in 1984 and held that position until he was appointed Minister of National Supplies in 1985. Mugabe appointed him judge, before appointing him ambassador to the United States.
In 2005 at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Mubako said the land reform was a “perfectly legal, fair and transparent” process. He said he was also a beneficiary of the land reform programme. Mubako said the land reform programme was justified because it was based on the principle of “abolishing the colonial legacy of racial privilege”.
In a discussion on torture, famine and violence in Washington in 2002 on a radio show on world affairs called Common Ground, Mubako said: “The government of Zimbabwe does not torture anybody. There might have been some violence, but this violence is committed by individuals, who are punished if they are found guilty by the government of Zimbabwe. So this is ridiculous to say the government itself tortures people. It does not.”
He is the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Harare of the Church of the Province of Central Africa. Gandiya was elected to the post in 2009 and was consecrated on July 26 that same year in Harare, succeeding Bishop Sebastian Bakare. He made headlines after he successfully appealed against court rulings that favoured the excommunicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.
Immediately after assuming his post, Gandiya appealed the court rulings that favoured Kunonga and has spent much of his time protecting his church from the subsequent property seizures and violence against clergy.
In November 2012, a Supreme Court decision ended the six-year dispute between the Anglicans led by Gandiya and Kunonga’s Church of the Province of Zimbabwe.
Gandiya has worked with the church since the 1970s when he served as a catechist. His formal theological training started with a diploma from Rusitu Bible Institute followed by ordination training at St John’s Nottingham (UK) and post-graduate studies in religious studies at the University of Zimbabwe. He undertook further post-graduate training in medical ethics in the USA and in Zimbabwe.
Gandiya served as parish priest, university chaplain (Zimbabwe and USA), diocesan stewardship officer and lecturer at Bishop Gaul College in Harare, Lansing Community College, USA and United College of the Ascension, Birmingham, UK.
As principal of Bishop Gaul College he managed to have the college registered as an associate college of the University of Zimbabwe.
As desk officer at USPG Anglicans in World Mission, which is a church-based
charity working in direct partnership with Anglicans around the world, Gandiya oversees a wide-range of projects in health, leadership development and education in Africa and the Indian Ocean.
He has served on committees for several organisations including African Enterprise, Institute of Contemporary Christianity and Youth with a Mission.
Gandiya was founder member and chairman of the Aids Counselling Trust (Act) and Anitepam, Christians for the Liberation of South Africa and Third World Personnel Working in Europe.
She is a women’s rights activist, spirit medium, lawyer and mbira musician. Shaba is a former director at the Women’s Trust.
Shaba rose to prominence with her “Women Can Do It” campaign that sought to ensure women attained more political positions just before the 2008 harmonised elections.
Her success in this regard can be measured by the fact that for the first time in the country’s history, more than 800 women offered themselves up for public office during the elections.
She says she is possessed by Mbuya Nehanda’s spirit and her spiritual name is Ambuya Muhera.
She made headlines when she left her Borrowdale home to go and live in Acturus in a “holy land” behind the Shawasha hills.
Most people were shocked that Shaba, an eloquent lawyer and women’s rights activist, chose to become an oracle.
She says she carries her mandate to remind people of the ways in which ancestors prayed to God and the roles of ancestors and traditional spirituality through music, radio talks and writing books.
She is a holder of an Honours Degree in Law from the University of Zimbabwe and a Master of Arts Degree in Policy Studies. She also trained in leadership in Africa in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Shaba had a brief stint in politics in 2011 when she was appointed a national executive member of the MDC-T.
Her story is a typical rages to riches one. Shaba grew up in poverty, which forced her to engage in transactional sex with an older man when she was only 16 to pay her way through high school and feed herself.
She tested HIV positive in 2002 after her mother died of an Aids-related illness and had discovered that the man she had been involved with had also been involved with her mother.
Shaba opened a dating agency in 2006, “Hapana”, for HIV positive people.
Shaba has been fighting for gender parity and women’s representation in decision-making.
She has often accused political parties of using women candidates as “pawns in a political game, allocating them seats in areas where the parties are not strongholds”.
She has pointed out that without full recognition of women’s rights in the democratisation process, equality and favourable electoral laws, proper regulation to ensure gender parity at party level and an end to political violence, women shall continue to be underrepresented in the political sphere.
Shaba has published a couple of books, one novel based on her own life story entitled Secrets of a Woman’s Soul and another Power Stepping, a handbook giving life skills on sexuality, teenage hood, peer pressure and how girls should be the owners of their bodies.
Jamela is a lawyer working for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. He has experience in the fields of law, justice and human rights and community engagement and transitional justice processes.
He was born in 1980 in Mberengwa, Midlands and obtained a law honours degree at the University of Zimbabwe, with an optional course on alternative dispute resolution.
Jamela worked for the Ministry of Justice from 2004 to 2006 as magistrate stationed in Bulawayo and Tsholotsho, before joining a private law firm in Bulawayo (2006-2010).
He joined the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights as a senior projects lawyer in 2010 and rose to be regional manager for Matabeleland and Midlands regions. In 2013, he completed a Masters in law studies (LLM) at the University of Pretoria majoring in human rights and democratisation in Africa, with transitional justice in Africa making a component of the studies.