The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) should be given powers to inspect prisons and other places of detention, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Douglas Mwonzora has said.
Mwonzora warned Zanu PF MPs to take the proposed changes to the ZHRC Bill seriously because power could change hands and the offensive clauses might end being used against them.
“At this point when we refer to the word ‘minister’ we mean the minister that is created in terms of the law. It may be (Patrick) Chinamasa today or Mwonzora tomorrow and we are talking of an office and not a person. That is why we are saying we should not give too much power to the Executive over the commission,” said Mwonzora.
The MDC-T spokesperson said this during debate on the Second Reading stage of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill on Tuesday.
The ZHRC Bill was brought before Parliament by Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa. Mwonzora’s proposal followed reports Zimbabwe’s prison conditions were not suitable for human habitation.
“The commission should also be given the power to inspect prisons and other places of detention and submit their reports and/or other recommendations to Parliament and the aforesaid functions should be expressly stated in the Bill and the framework provided by the Constitution should be expanded to include the areas highlighted,” said Mwonzora.
“Some of our detention institutions have been condemned by the Supreme Court as unfit for human habitation and our Human Rights Commission should be given access to these centres from time to time and make recommendations on their conditions to Parliament so that we improve the places of detention,” he said.
Mwonzora said Zimbabwean laws presumed a person innocent until proven guilty and people who were taken to detention centres were supposed to be held there for their own security and therefore conditions must not be a form of punishment.
“There are many cases where people who have been arrested and detained have been subjected to punishment. So, these are pre-conviction punishments and it should not happen in a democratic country. The Bill should enable inspection of these centres,” Mwonzora said.