THE operations of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) have been crippled by the retirement of four of commissioners, derailing the fight for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
The setting up of the ZHRC was hailed as a milestone to address the country’s questionable human rights record. Zimbabwe has dark human rights past dating back as far as 1980 when the country attained independence.
The establishment of the ZHRC was negotiated as one of the deliverables of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed between the opposition MDC and the ruling Zanu PF.
According to ZHRC commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi, the commission’s operations has been crippled following the retirement of commissioners Ellen Sithole (former deputy chairperson), Joseph Kurebwa, Kwanele Jirira and Japhet Ndabeni Ncube with effect from May 7.
“Before the retirement of the four commissioners, there was already a vacancy after the resignation of commissioner Carrol Khombe on the 30th of October 2018.
“The remaining four commissioners do not constitute a quorum, which is supposed to be five,” Mugwadi said in a letter dated May 26 to ZHRC partners and its stakeholders.
“The remaining four commissioners do not constitute a quorum, which is supposed to be five.
“This means that as of now, the ZHRC cannot hold commission meetings for purposes of making policy resolutions or adoption of monitoring and investigation reports.
“The handicap prevents dissemination of un-adopted commission reports which are being produced for activities that are currently taking place.”
A full complement of the ZHRC must have 9 commissioners.
“The reports which are being produced now are filed of record and will only be adopted by the commission after new commissioners have been appointed. In the meantime, the commission can only share statements which provide highlights of the activities being carried out,” Mugwadi added.
In an interview on Thursday, Mugwadi requested Parliament to convene interviews to fill the vacant posts of commissioners.
Parliament has advertised for the vacant posts but interviews have not been conducted following disruptions to parly business by the Covid-19 lockdown measures.
“They have served terms which expired on the 7th of May. We are requesting parliament to convene interviews so that they be replaced as soon as possible,” Mugwadi said.
Under Section 243 of the Constitution, the ZHRC has the mandate to receive and investigate complaints of violation of human rights and administrative justice from the public.
The Commission also has the power to conduct investigations on alleged violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, at its own initiative.