Commissions discredited from the start

via Commissions discredited from the start – The Zimbabwean 23 July 2015

As we report elsewhere in this edition, President Robert Mugabe stands accused of disregarding the selection ratings of a parliamentary panel that interviewed prospective commissioners for the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC).

The information that we received from legislators who were involved in the selection of the commissioners indicates that those who topped the list were dropped while applicants with less appropriate qualifications were appointed. If anything, this gives compelling reasons to revamp the way in which commissioners are appointed to government institutions.

Granted, the President has the constitutional and legal mandate to appoint members to the various statutory commissions. However, it must be noted that the process of selection is not entirely a preserve of the executive.

The legislature, as another arm of government, is also involved. This means that its recommendations and findings regarding candidates to be included in the commissions must be taken seriously – and treated with the respect and transparency that they deserve. There would be no need for the legislature to be included in the process if at the end of the day its recommendations are dishonoured.

What is particularly disturbing is the fact that there is no transparency in the way the president makes his final choice from the basket of candidates that Parliament recommends to him. As it stands, we are not sure why the top performing candidates were offloaded in the case of the gender commission. This opacity contrasts sharply with the transparency that Parliament displays when it conducts public interviews. The president must lead by example and publicise his choices.

We are also worried by the fact that the top performers who were subsequently struck off have no links with the Zanu (PF) government while the majority, if not all, of those finally selected are in one way or another aligned to the ruling party and the government.

This suggests that the final choice of commissioners was fraught with partisanship. This would mean that the commission is not representative – if not illegal. Statutory commissions are national and public bodies that must not serve the interests of particular parties or individuals. Once partisan, they cease to be constitutional.

Again, we note that reports of partisanship in the appointment of commissioners have been made regarding several other commissions, namely the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zimbabwe (ACCZ).

Clearly, these commissions have been discredited right from the start because of their lack of inclusivity. We wonder why government decides in the first place to establish public bodies that not only will draw a lot of resources from treasury and the taxpayer, but would serve only the interests of one section of society.