Doubt Over Commission’s Ability To Rein In Rogue Army, Police Elements

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

STAKEHOLDERS have expressed reservations over the effectiveness of the envisaged Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission (ZICC) which, upon establishment, is expected to receive and adjudicate on complaints raised by civilians against members of the security services sector.

The sector includes the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), police and prisons.

During the joint public hearing of the committees on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Defence and Home Affairs held in Chinhoyi Tuesday, ordinary citizens and civil society representatives raised scepticism on the effectiveness of ZICC, whose officials would be appointed by the president in consultations with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Stakeholders felt provisions of the tabled Independent Complaints Commission Bill gave the President excessive powers and this compromised the autonomy of the body.

National Transitional Justice Working Group’s representative, Farirai Sibanda said there should be a legal framework to ensure JSC’s recommendations on appointment of the ZICC chairperson, executive secretary and secretariat staff were implemented.

“Our first concern is that provisions of the Bill make the appointment of the chairperson of the Commission subject to appointment by the President after consultation with the JSC.

“In our view, this appointment should be done in consultation with JSC so that the President is bound by the recommendations that are made by the JSC,” said Sibanda.

She added, “Secondly, the issue of appointment of the executive secretary is subject to approval of the President, in our view this undermines the independence of the Commission in the sense that its secretariat is then subjected to oversight by the President which undermines the issue of independence and the Commission should be able to independently appoint its secretariat.”

Some participants voiced concerns the Commission, just like already existing ones, should not be manned by serving or retired soldiers, police officers or other security services personnel.

Peter Liwanda, coordinator of Chinhoyi Residents Trust, raised scepticism the Bill in its current form would set a solid foundation for setting up of an effective complaints handling institution.

“The Bill is silent on mechanisms to protect complainants and witnesses. It does not specify the parameters and nature of complaints and how it will relate to other commissions already in existence such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

“Also, the Bill outlines the Commission will table its recommendations to Parliament, but for it to be effective l suggest it is empowered to be able to enforce its recommendations,” said Liwanda.

Former Chinhoyi deputy mayor, Willie Nyambe reiterated the need for the proposed legislation to stipulate the lifespan of the body and also avoid duplication of roles of other independent commissions in order to save taxpayers’ money.

Another participant, Justin Munyaradzi said the Bill should spell out specific timelines for which complaints would be received, as the country has a long history of atrocities and gross human violations perpetrated during different periods.

He singled out the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s and the June 2008 harmonised election violence allegedly executed by the dreaded CIO, army and police.

If passed into law, grievances from members of the public against members of the security services could be investigated and remedied.

The objective of the Bill is to provide for the establishment and outlining of the functions of the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission in line with Section 210 of the Constitution.

The section stipulates that an “Act of Parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for the receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such conduct.”