The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZIMRIGHTS), a National Transitional Justice Working Group stakeholder on 1 July 2021 filed an application in the High Court in Harare seeking a declaratory order that the newly appointed National Peace and Reconciliation (NPRC) Commissioner, Advocate Obert Gutu has ceased being a commissioner.
Gutu’s appointment as a Commissioner of the NPRC on 7 May 2021 by the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangwagwa, came shortly after he publicly joined a political party namely Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (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 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.
ZIMRIGHTS, through its lawyers, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum seeks to have the Court declare that Gutu has ceased to be an NPRC commissioner as provided in section 236 of the Constitution. Gutu’s response on the Application is a bare denial that he never formally joined ZANU PF despite his own widely publicised admissions which he has not retracted. The matter is yet to be determined by the High Court.
Source: National Transitional Justice Working Group