BY MOSES MATENGA
MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs) have called on Parliament to appoint persons from the African Union (AU) and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) to head the Independent Complaints Commission if it were to effectively rein in the country’s rogue security forces.
This was said last Thursday in the National Assembly during debate at the Second Reading Stage of the Independent Complaints Commission Bill.
If successfully crafted, the Independent Complaints Commission Bill will operationalise section 210 of the Constitution which provides that: “An Act of Parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.”
The Bill seeks to establish an independent commission that will allow complaints of misconduct from members of the public against members of the security services to be investigated and provide remedies for such misconduct.
Crafting of the Bill comes at a time when soldiers on August 1, 2018 gunned down six unarmed civilians during post-electoral violence. In January 2019, 23 civilians were also gunned down during fuel protests according to human rights groups.
After the 2018 killing of six civilians, the Motlanthe Commission was set up to investigate the issue, and was led by an independent person, former South African leader Kgalema Motlanthe.
Mount Pleasant MP Samuel Banda (MDC Alliance) said the Independent Complaints Commission should be headed by a person from the AU or Sadc to effectively rein in rogue members of the security services.
“Clause 6.5 disqualifies non-citizens from being commissioners, yet if we look at the Motlanthe Commission, it was led by a foreigner so that we have got some form of independence,” Banda said.
“They are best placed for this role as they will not be partisan. We call for integral and honest people to be commissioners. I prefer Sadc or AU commissioners to be appointed to bring total independence to the Bill. The nature of some of the work requires foreigners like Motlanthe and former South African President Thabo Mbeki, or any other commissioners that may be seen to be fit,” Banda said.
Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese (MDC Alliance) said MPs from across the political divide should ensure unity when crafting such an important law.
“The reason this (law) came about is that in the past, our security services have fallen short of the standards which were expected of them. Complaints have been raised over the years against members of the army, police, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and other security services. This is because the complaints were being swept under the carpet,” Gonese said.
“I know that some of the members of the security services were not comfortable with a situation where the commission is given wide powers. I submit that the powers should be strengthened so that, that particular commission can once and for all deal with such issues,” he said.
But Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi said the Bill should not be politicised.
“I think colleagues on your left are being too political instead of debating issues. They are bringing in the security forces and everybody. I do not think that this law is intended to deal with the security forces. So I think if they can confine themselves to the real debate, not to be particular about specific institutions of government as if they stay in Mars,” Togarepi said.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) said: “There have been quite a number of complaints where the security sector — the police, army and other arms of security intelligence — have been accused of various human rights violations. What we need to do in my view is that if this Independent Complaints Commission is to effectively discharge its duties — and if civilians out there can come and lodge their complaints, it is my view that one of the things that we need to do is to make sure that this commission is reachable and does not sort of threaten citizens.”
MDC Alliance legislator Nicola Watson (Bulawayo Central MP) said in order for the commission to be effective, its commissioners should not be appointed from the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.
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