By Costa Nkomo
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS) has approached the High Court seeking the dismissal of Obert Gutu from the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
Gutu was appointed NPRC commissioner and spokesperson by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last May.
However, ZIMRIGHTS is challenging his appointment arguing it is unconstitutional as he is a member of the ruling party – Zanu PF.
Chapter 12 independent commission’s commissioners are supposed to be apolitical, and according to ZIMRIGHTS, Gutu’s recent appointment was a violation of the country’s Constitution.
Gutu was appointed an NPRC commissioner barely two months after being paraded at State House as a new member of Zanu PF.
Before then, he had held several senior positions in the MDC-T.
In a statement Friday, the organisation said: “ZIMRIGHTS, a National Transitional Justice Working Group shareholder on 1 July 2021 filed an application in the High Court seeking a declaratory order that the newly appointed National Peace and Reconciliation Commission commissioner Advocate Obert Gutu has ceased being a commissioner.”
ZIMRIGHTS added: “Gutu’s appointment as a commissioner of the NPRC on May 7 May 2021 by the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, came shortly after he publicly joined a political party namely Zanu PF.
“In terms of section 236 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013, if a commissioner of an independent commission is a member of a political organisation on his appointment, they must relinquish that political party membership within 30 days of the appointment or they immediately cease to be a commissioner.
“This provision is important since independent commissions are supposed to be apolitical and independent of any political influence of bias.
“Although Gutu has previously used social media platforms to announce his resignation from the MDC-T then led by Dr Thokozani Khupe as well as his joining of Zanu PF which he followed up with a newspaper article in one of the national weeklies, he has been mum on his resignation from Zanu PF as required by the law.”
According to ZIMRIGHTS, Gutu had responded to its High Court application denying he ever formally joined Zanu PF but dismissed the response as “bare denial”.
“Gutu’s response on the application is bare denial that he never formally joined Zanu PF despite his own widely-publicised admissions which he has not retracted.
Last month, Gutu was roundly condemned by Zimbabweans after telling journalists that the NPRC was dealing with the Gukurahundi massacres although it was “just a small, tiny fraction of the various other disputes.”
“It’s a pity that normally people look at the commission as only dealing with one issue of Gukurahundi. I think Gukurahundi is just a small, tiny fraction of the various other disputes we are talking about,” he said.
The NPRC deputy chairperson, Lilian Chigwedere in the presence of Gutu, was later forced to issue an apology over the Gukurahundi statements before a joint Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs, and a Thematic Committee on Peace and Security.
“We know that careless language can flare up things like what happened recently,” Chigwedere said in reference to Gutu’s utterances.