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‘Commissioners cannot be political’

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THE draft constitution which the three principals in the inclusive government have endorsed, forbids commissioners from holding political offices — a provision that should see a number of commissioners having to leave their posts.

REPORT BY EVERSON MUSHAVA

Section 236 of the new draft charter, which now awaits parliamentary approval, requires all members of independent commissions to be apolitical.

“Members of the independent commissions must not, in the exercise of their functions — act in a partisan manner; further the interests of any political party or cause; prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person,” the draft reads.

The section goes on to state that: “Persons who are members of a political party or organisation on their appointment to an independent commission must relinquish that membership without delay and in any event within thirty days of their appointment.

“If a member of an independent commission becomes a member of a political party or organisation; or having been a member of a political party or organisation on his or her appointment to an independent institution supporting democracy, fails to relinquish that membership within thirty days of the appointment, he or she ceases immediately to be a member of the commission concerned.”

The new charter recognises the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Media Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

Many commissioners in these institutions are known officials of political parties that were seconded to commissions at their inception.

However, Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga yesterday assured the current commissioners that they would not be any wholesale expulsions.

“Democracy is not an event. It is a process,” Matinenga said. “That is why we have a section in the constitution on transitional provision to allow a smooth transition and ensure people conduct themselves according to the law.”

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