Parliament through the Joint Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Defence and Home Affairs is currently holding public hearings on the Independent Complaints Commission Bill (H.B.5, 2020).The public hearings run from the 7th-11th of June 2021 in various places. Section 210 of the Constitution provides for an Independent Complaints Mechanism. For the operationalisation of this mechanism, an Act of Parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct. The security services in Zimbabwe consist, as detailed under Section 207 of the Constitution, of the: Defense Forces; Police Service; Intelligence Services; and Prisons and Correctional Service, and any other security services established by Act of Parliament. The Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill was gazetted on the 24th November 2020, in fulfillment of Section 210 of the Constitution. This came after the Constitutional Court issued an order in favour of Hilton Chironga and Heal Zimbabwe Director, Rashid Mahiya compelling the government to gazette a Bill for the Act envisaged by Section 210 of the Constitution by the 9th of November 2020.
The most prominent issue raised by participants during both hearings in Masvingo and Marondera was the need for 50/50 gender representation for Commissioners and personnel that will serve in the Commission. Participants noted that they were some sensitive gross human rights violations perpetrated against women such as rape that were sensitive and needed women to investigate. Another dominant issue was that the Commission was supposed to decentralise and raise more awareness on its work especially in rural areas.
Below are some of the contributions from the Masvingo and Marondera public hearings that were conducted on 10 June 2021;
- The Commission must have 50/50 gender representation so that women can freely submit their reports to the commission
- The Commission must decentralise its offices for easy accessibility of the commission
- Security services must not serve in the Commission as this might scare away victims from making reports
- The Commission must have representation for people with disabilities
- Members of the security services found to have violated human rights of citizens must be dismissed from their work
- There should be strong monitoring & evaluation mechanisms to ensure that the commission achieve results
- Once the Commission is operational, it must embark on a countrywide campaign raising awareness on its work so that citizens are informed
- Prison officers violate human rights of prisoners. The Commission must investigate this and take appropriate action
- The Commission must be truly independent as provided for by the constitution
- Investigators must be truly independent and not be members of the security services
- The Commission must be independent and be allowed to fulfill its mandate without any interference by any arm of the government.
- This Bill gives the President more powers to appoint individuals that serve in the Commission
- The Commission must also deal with human rights violations by members of the security services at roadblocks
- The Bill does not provide for 50/50 gender representation for personnel that will serve in the Commission
- The Bill is silent on the need to protect witnesses who report cases of human rights to the Commission
- The Bill must outline how investigations by the Commission will be conducted
- The Commission must deal with issues dating back to more than the 3 years in the bill
- The Commission must decentralise to all districts across the country
- The Commission must not only investigate but must be given powers to prosecute
Heal Zimbabwe will continue to monitor Parliamentary processes such as public hearings on bill as this enhances citizen participation in the crafting of laws
Source: Heal Zimbabwe