SIX years after the Constitution established the Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 independent commissions, their complete independence remains questionable because most of their programmes still have to be funded by development partners, as government has failed to adequately fund them through the fiscus.
These commissions include the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which got $14,3 million from the 2019 national budget, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) $3,3m, Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) $1,9 million, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) $1,5m and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) $2,4m. The Zimbabwe Land Commission was allocated $10,4m.
The other underfunded body is the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), which got a paltry $6,4m, although it is mandated to play a pivotal role in fighting corruption, which has cost the country millions of dollars.
In order for Zacc to be effective in its constitutional mandate, it needs to be well-resourced so that its officers are able to effectively investigate cases of corruption throughout the country without fear or favour.
Zacc officials also need to be well-remunerated to avert situations where they end up taking bribes to trash cases of graft that they will be investigating.
The danger of underfunding independent commissions is that their independence will be compromised, as they will have to take their begging bowls to outside funders, who in turn, will attach strings to their financial support.
Very often, the international partners that support commissions assert that they do not influence any programmes by the commissions, but it’s known that they usually fund programmes that they prefer and set conditions that normally compromise the commissions’ independence.
As Parliament deliberates the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill to do with the 2019 budget, it is imperative for MPs to scrutinise the allocations to independent commissions and ensure that they are adequately funded.
It is the duty of Parliament to ensure that these commissions are well-resourced so that they maintain their independence as enshrined in the Constitution to safeguard human rights.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, in its recent report on allocations to the Justice ministry, indicated that Zec and the ZHRC were grossly underfunded.
They said Zec needed to begin preparations for the 2023 elections, delimitation of constituencies after the 2022 census, and carry out voter education.
For the ZHRC, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice said development partners had already threatened that if it is not adequately funded, it will be removed from the “A” class category of countries with the best human rights commissions. What this means is that development partners will stop funding the ZHRC.
The NPRC equally has a lot of investigations to do, and with inadequate funding, it will be impossible to effectively perform their mandate.
The Zimbabwe Land Commission is also currently seized with the issue of land barons causing havoc in the country, and without adequate resources, it will not be able to restore sanity in the allocation of land.
Equally, ZMC needs to be adequately resourced because promotion of a vibrant media will assist in portraying a good image for the country.
If Parliament still wants the commissions to be effective, then MPs from across the political divide need to throw away their political hats and speak with one voice to ensure they are prioritised in the budget.