The soon to be established Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission should be truly independent if ever it is going to serve its intended purpose, Bulawayo residents told a parliamentary public hearing in the city, Tuesday.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe’s three thematic committees on Defence, Home Affairs and security services, Legal Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Peace and Security are on a nationwide public hearing on the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Bill, which was gazetted on November 24 last year. The Bill seeks to provide for an independent complaints mechanism for the public against members of the security services pursuant to section 210 of the Constitution.
“It has to be an independent commission; there should be no police officers or soldiers in it; no brigadier, as we have just heard that brigadiers are all over,” said Patricia Tshabalala of Mpopoma. “We are afraid of police officers; we are afraid of soldiers. Let it be an independent commission so that we can all come forward with our complaints.”
“We do not want to see political domination in the composition of this commission,” said Tapfuma Machakaire, a Bulawayo journalist. “Also it is of paramount importance that we have openness within the commission. We call for the appointment of a competent spokesperson who will be able to decipher between issues of public interest that can be captured by the media and issues that need protection, where maybe you need not to identify the complainant.”
Ward 24 Councillor Arnold Batirai said to ensure independence, the commission should report to the Parliament and not to the President.
“It has to do yearly reports to the Parliament,” said Batirai. “Every member of the commission must be trained on counselling and health issues. Security chiefs who are found guilty must be banned from holding any public office in this country.”
Other participants called for the full representation of women and youth in the commission as well as the need for it to be accessible to citizens in all corners of Zimbabwe.
The other issue that came out strongly from Bulawayo residents was the need for the commission to entertain complaints of members of the public dating back to Gukurahundi.
Some residents called for the need for the commission, which they said should be given arresting powers to act with speed upon receiving a complaint while ensuring that the complainant is always protected.
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services, who chaired the meeting, said views of the residents would be taken into consideration before the bill is passed into law.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology