Rights body refuses to be part of violence probe team

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has refused to be part of an special investigation committee being formed under amendment to the Electoral Act  to probe election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence.

In their submission to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs yesterday, the Elasto Mugwadi-led ZHRC said they must not be included in the committee because the rights body must work independently.

“The creation of the special investigation committee with the mandate to receive, investigate and report to Zec on alleged use of politically motivated violence including the rights of candidates and voters compromises and prejudices the independence of the ZHRC because it could possibly result in the ZHRC being controlled and subject to the direction of others,” the rights body said in its submissions.

“This may lead to a long-term loss of credibility for the commission as an independent and autonomous institution in terms of section 253 (1) of the Constitution which provides for the independence of the commissions namely that they are ‘independent and not subject to the direction or control of anyone and must exercise their function without fear, favour or prejudice’.”

Section 235 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that no person may interfere with the function of the independent commissions.

“Therefore, the ZHRC being bound by the supreme law should be able to investigate the human rights dimension of incidents of politically motivated violence independently and make referral to the ZRP according to section 243(1) of the Constitution where it considers such referrals to be appropriate,” it said.

Zimbabwe’s parties have agreed to implement some reforms before they call for a fresh election mid next year.

The rights body said it has independent responsibility to investigate human rights violations and promote human rights.

“According to section 9 of the ZHRC Act (Chapter 10:30), the commission may on its own initiative, investigate any action or commission on the part of any authority or person that constitutes or may constitutes a human rights violations.

“Many of the election allegations may be against the police, political parties or candidates. This means that the ZHRC can investigate independently without being bundled up with the police as it is currently doing.”

It said to confuse the commission’ responsibilities and institutions identity with the police and political parties will jeopardise its vital need as a national institution to gain the public’s trust and unique status as a State body with an independent responsibility to investigate human rights violations and promote human rights.

“In light of the above arguments, the ZHRC declines to form part of any Special Investigations Committee in either general or by-election and prefers to do its investigations independently without interferences as prescribed by the Constitution.

“Therefore, the ZHRC requests that the section should entirely exclude any mention of the ZHRC or should be declared unconstitutional and repealed,” it said.