Crafting of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, which seeks to give teeth to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, lying idle for almost two years after its formation, has begun in Parliament.
The Human Rights Commission was appointed two years ago by President Robert Mugabe, but, has been dormant due to lack of funding and a legal framework, resulting in human rights breaches going unrecorded and/or uninvestigated.
The Bill is being crafted amid reports of an upsurge in cases of political violence and arrests of human rights activists and journalists.
“Clause 17 of the Bill provides for the funds of the Commission, which shall include moneys appropriated by an Act of Parliament and donations and grants from other sources, subject to the approval of the minister and the minister responsible for finance,” reads part of the Bill.
“Part III of the Bill deals with investigations that can be made by the Commission and Clause 9 permits the Commission to initiate investigations into matters relating to human rights.”
It also seeks to give power to the commission to appoint its staff and make policy decisions.
Commission chairperson Reginald Austin last year told the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Human Rights their woes ranged from inadequate funding to lack of knowledge on powers vested in them.
“We cannot act on human rights reports because we have not been capacitated to go and find out if the violations are true. If we had that capacity, we would then make annual reports to Parliament and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs,” said Austin.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, recently conceded the Bill was overdue.
“As Parliament, we are extremely concerned about the delay in the presentation and subsequent ratification of human rights instruments and other treaties,” he said.
After the Bill sails through the House of Assembly, it will be scrutinised at Senate before President Mugabe signs it into law.