BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
HOME Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe has expressed reservations about proposed amendments to the Police Act, arguing the police would be severely weakened if the Bill was passed into law in its current form.
The Bill, which contains 20 clauses and fits into calls by human rights’ activists and the opposition for security sector reforms, intends to amend provisions of the Police Act so that it complies with the constitution.
Among the proposed changes, is the alignment for the appointment of the commissioner general of police, his or her tenure of office and alignment of provisions relating to the appointment, promotion, discharge, retirement and conditions of service of members of the police service with the provisions of the constitution.
However, Kazembe last week appeared to be singling out clause six as weakening the police force as it empowers the Police Service Commission and not commissioner general of the police to formulate standing orders in line with provisions of Section 223 (1)(b) of the constitution.
The clause is an amendment to Section 9 of the Principal Act, which empowers the commissioner general of police in consultation with the minister to make standing orders.
“However, it is also pertinent that the prerogative of drafting standing orders should be placed under the ambit of the commissioner-general of police as this is the common practice in other jurisdictions.
“This will allow the smooth running of the Police Service. Standing orders are internationally known as standard operating procedures and outlines how the organisation operates,” Kazembe said during the second reading of the Bill in Parliament.
“In as much as one would argue that these clauses are in line with the provisions of section 223 and 340 of the constitution, which outlines the various functions of the Police Service Commission, this is nonetheless difficult in operation.
“It can be argued that as a security arm of the nation, the members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police are expected to exhibit a high standard of discipline. “
The Police Act regulates the appointment and discipline of police officers and the composition of the Police Service.
The Bill has been presented in the National Assembly and given its first reading.
It is now being considered by a joint parliamentary committee consisting of the national assembly’s portfolio committee on defence, home affairs and security services and the Senate’s thematic committee on peace and security.
Legislative watchdog Veritas also raised concerns about the Bill in a recent analysis arguing it does not address “fundamental issues such as the powers of police officers to deal with crime and maintain public order”.