Parly, civic society rap peace Bill

Parly, civic society rap peace Bill | The Herald April 8, 2016

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
THE Parliamentary Legal Committee and civil society organisations have rapped the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill, saying it undermines the independence of the commission by conferring too much power on the parent ministry.

Civil society organisations held a meeting with Members of Parliament to unpack the Bill ahead of a public hearing to be conducted by joint Senate thematic and portfolio committees this weekend.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Cde Marble Chinomona announced in the House an adverse report issued by the PLC chaired by Mudzi South MP Cde Jonathan Samkange (Zanu-PF).

Civil society organisations under the National Transitional Justice Working Group held a half day workshop where they adopted the observations of the PLC.

In its report, PLC said while the Constitution provided for NPRC’s independence, that right was taken away in the Bill because of powers conferred on the Minister to implement recommendations formulated by the commission.

“The power given to the Minister to implement the recommendations of the commission is unconstitutional as it infringes on the independence guaranteed in terms of Section 235 (of the Constitution.)

“In terms of the Constitution, the Minister is a conduit of the Commission as far as tabling reports of the Commission in Parliament in terms of Section 324,” read the report.

The independence of the Commission, said the PLC, did not provide for it to report to the Minister, but to Parliament.

“The Commission is accountable to Parliament hence it is required to submit reports . . . not accountable to the Minister as the interpretation of this clause seems to suggest,” read the report. It was also noted that in terms of the Bill, the Minister ought to be consulted in the appointment of the commission’s chief executive officer and other staff members, further undermining its independence.

The PLC noted that Clause 3 (1) of the Bill provided that a member should hold office for a period not more than five years, suggesting the member could be removed before the five-year tenure, in violation of the Constitution which gives a five-year term renewable for one term.

“Accordingly, there is no discretion on the part of the appointing authority to remove a member from office before the prescribed office tenure of five years unless the member resigns or removed from office on the grounds provided for in Section 237 (2) (of the Constitution) as read with subsection (3) of that Section,” the report reads.

During Wednesday’s meeting with MPs, Centre for Applied Legal Research executive director, Mr Nyasha Chishakwe, said Clause 3 conferring powers on Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders and Judicial Service Commission to review performance of the commission was unconstitutional.

“There is no aspect in the Constitution to do about assessment of the performance of the commission,” said Mr Chishakwe.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum representative, Mr Tafadzwa Christmas, said the role of the Minister in the Bill had the effect of eclipsing the commission.

A consultant with Veritas, Mr Brian Crozier, said there was need to avoid limiting source of funding for the commission to Treasury alone.

Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira implored presenters to assist in how the country’s culture could help in conflict resolution.