THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs was yesterday forced to abort its consultation meeting after fuming Bulawayo residents castigated the committee, saying it was constituted by retired soldiers whom they accused of being human rights violators.
The residents clashed with the committee chairperson, retired Brigadier General Levy Mayihlome during consultations on the Independent Complaints Commission Bill.
“Soldiers and brigadiers are human rights violators. They should not be conducting these commissions.
“We do not even feel safe airing our views here, so you better just leave.
“It’s pointless gathering us here, you bring us bad memories of how we suffer at the hands of soldiers,” shouted one participant.
Another fuming resident, Overt Ndoda said if the government wanted to investigate and conduct public hearings on human rights violations, it was supposed to bring independent people, adding that having the army in the picture scared residents.
“You are consulting us on a Bill that speaks to murder, torture and gross human rights violations here, not a simple issue like service delivery, so deal with us with respect.
“Bring independent people, not these retired soldiers who bring us bad memories,” he said.
Social and Justice ambassador Yolanda Millin also said the committee should bring independent individuals to chair such events.
“This committee should not be treated at par with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), this one should be independent. Zacc chairperson can be appointed by the president because it has nothing to do with independence, not with this committee,” she said.
Residents said ideally the Commission must be given powers to arrest perpetrators of crimes dating as far back as the Gukurahundi and Chimurenga era, and not just the recent events.
“Therefore, we are saying soldiers cannot be part of this because most of them are human rights perpetrators,” said another resident.
Mayihlome was forced to abort the meeting, saying it was pointless to engage people who were making noise.
“Making noise won’t help us here. I am just trying to make peace so that we have a meeting and go.
“Those who don’t want to listen can choose not to,” he said.
Residents also took Mayihlome to task over the absence of a sign language interpreter.
Mayihlome responded: “We do not have the interpreter.
“I am not the owner of the Parliament so I am not answerable to that.”
But, residents could have none of it, accusing Mayihlome of being rude and uncaring, adding that the Bill should be translated into the 16 official languages.