By Tatenda Chitagu
MASVINGO-BASED non-governmental organisation, Institute for Community Development (ICOD) has petitioned Parliament to promulgate an Act that will establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate the abuse of citizens by State security agents under the current lockdown period.
The petition, handed to Parliament, comes hard on the heels of the alleged abduction and torture of three MDC Alliance leaders by suspected State security agents last week.
The august House acknowledged receipt of the petition, which partly read: “We are disturbed by reports of assault, corruption and other misconduct by members of the security services during the national lockdown that was announced by HE the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and provided for in Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 — Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020 from March 30, 2020.”
The petitioners pleaded with Parliament to exercise its constitutional mandate to give effect to section 210 of the Constitution and inquire into reports of assault and other misconduct by members of the security services during the national lockdown.
“Although the High Court of Zimbabwe, on April 16, 2020, granted an interim order — in a case that challenged torture, inhumane and degrading conduct, disregard of human dignity and violation of the Constitution by members of the Police Service and the Zimbabwe National Army — requiring members of the security services to respect human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms when enforcing the national lockdown regulations, such an order does not provide for the investigation of complaints against misconduct and the remedying harm caused by such misconduct.”
The MDC Alliance has been calling for an independent investigation, claiming the police were complicit in the abductions.
Police have denied anything to do with abductions.
“We are worried that the absence of an effective and independent mechanism envisaged under section 210 deprives members of the public a constitutionally prescribed avenue for redress,” the human rights lobby group said.
“We are mindful that asking members of the public to report complaints about misconduct on the part of members of the security services and expect remedies any harm caused by such misconduct to internal mechanism provided by the security services is woefully inadequate to satisfy the dictates of Section 210 which requires an effective and independent mechanism.
“The Parliament of Zimbabwe should ensure the promulgation of an Act of Parliament envisaged by section 210 of the Constitution to 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.”