CL/175/11(a)-R.2- 17 -
Geneva, 1st October 2004
7.Youth and political violence
The ZANU-PF youth militia are among those who are the most often mentioned as perpetrating acts of political violence. The authorities rejected as untrue and fabricated the reports, in particular the BBC documentary referred to under D.5. (footnote 7), about the National Youth Service being an institution to indoctrinate the youth, and even teach them violent means of action. The Commissioner of Police said that the National Youth Service was open to anyone aged over 18 years and provided vocational training. The MPs concerned and the NGO representatives affirmed that the information presented in the BBC documentary on the national youth training camps was correct and that, as stated by the BBC, the persons who testified in the documentary were former recruits who had escaped the camps and fled the country.13 As regards recruitment in the National Youth Service, some opposition MPs stated that their sons would hardly be accepted in the Army, but could be drafted in the youth militia. Finally, some interlocutors felt that the 80% youth unemployment rate explained the creation of the Service.
The Chief Whips also raised the issue of the youth. Both said that all parties had youth wings and that the youth was among the most active groups. However, indoctrinating them was not a good thing to do as it revived the old spirit. The Government Chief Whip agreed with the Opposition Whip that training should be done in a non-partisan way: “we are reviving the spirit of colonialism and using the youth in a way we should not do”.
8.Parliament: a place of tolerance?
8.1.As stated under D.4.1., the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs as well as both Chief Whips considered Parliament to be a place where the majority and opposition party could work together for the common good. The Leader of the Opposition confirmed that constructive work was done, particularly since the establishment of six oversight committees, five of which were chaired by the MDC. During its stay in Harare, the delegation was frequently in Parliament and had the opportunity of attending a parliamentary session. It emerged with the impression that Parliament was indeed a place where the opposition was accepted. However, it appears that the tolerance displayed in Parliament may dwindle if certain subjects are touched upon, as can be seen from the section below.
Shortly before leaving Harare, the delegation was given documents concerning the institution of contempt of the House proceedings against David Coltart. It was unaware of these proceedings when it met with the Speaker and therefore unable to raise the issue with him.
According to the documents provided, the contempt proceedings were brought on the following grounds: during a parliamentary debate on the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill, Mr. Coltart raised a point of order to enquire whether it was appropriate that MPs who had individually benefited from the Land Acquisition Act should participate in the debate and vote as a conflict of interest might arise between their personal interests and their public role as MPs. He produced a list containing names of MPs reported to have an interest in the Government’s Land Reform Programme as beneficiaries of State land acquisitions since May 2000. He is said to have produced the list when the Minister responsible for allocations as well as MPs mentioned on the list were present. The point of order which was supported by other opposition MPs was, however, set aside by the Leader of the House and, contrary to the Standing Orders, the debate and vote proceeded without the point of order having been decided upon. Immediately before the House adjourned, the Government Chief Whip, whose name was on the list, made a complaint. The procedure, during which Mr. Coltart had not been given the right to respond, was ratified the next day by the Speaker who, again without hearing Mr. Coltart, decided that there was a prima facie case that some information in the list was false in certain, non-specified, aspects. He decided to set up a select committee of five members, composed of three majority and two opposition members to establish whether Mr. Coltart had provided false information and done so intentionally. If found guilty, Mr. Coltart may face a prison sentence of up to two years and thus lose his parliamentary seat.
13 According to an article, published in the Zimbabwe Independent on 26 March 2004 entitled “War vets throw weight behind BBC documentary”, the President of the Zimbabwe Liberators Peace Initiative agreed with most of the details contained in the BBC documentary, being quoted as saying “We have interviewed and spoken to some of the youths who deserted these camps and what we have established is exactly what was highlighted in the BBC programme”. According to the article, he said that ZANU-PF had turned the National Youth Service into a military youth wing to terrorise opposition members and that the Government should disband the youth camps.