via Revise Gender Commission Bill: ZLHR – NewsDay Zimbabwe 9 October 2014 by Veneranda Langa
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has expressed disappointment with the gazetted draft Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill, saying it needed revision before going through the stages of Bills in Parliament before being enacted into law.
In their analysis of the Bill, the advocacy group said the draft Bill fell short of universal human rights standards (Paris principles) because of serious gaps.
“It is essential that the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill fully complies and is in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution in every respect. But regrettably, in several important respects this is not the case with the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill; it in fact falls far short of the standards set in the constitution,” ZLHR said.
“Unless the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill is extensively revised and improved before it is enacted into law, the commission will receive little, if any United Nations recognition.”
ZLHR said failure to get UN recognition would also make it extremely difficult for the commission to attract suitable financial and moral support to make it fully operational and effective.
Some of the Paris principles expected to be followed included independence guaranteed by the state or constitution, autonomy from government, pluralism, including in its membership, a broad mandate based on universal human rights standards, adequate powers of investigation, and adequate resources.
“The Zimbabwe Gender Commission should be protected from challenges that continue to affect the performance of other constitutional commissions, including lack of independence, lack of adequate resources, skewed accountability mechanisms, a weak mandate and lack of public support and confidence in their effectiveness,” the lawyer grouping said.
Some of the clauses they said needed panel beating included section 3 (1) of the draft Bill which stipulated the Minister of Gender and Women’s affairs would re-appoint commissioners for more than one term, which they said was unconstitutional.
“The Constitution (section 237) makes no provision for such extension and therefore the section is ultra vires the constitution,” the ZLHR said.
Section 16 of the ZGC Bill which states that the Minister can give policy direction to the commission in relation to issues of national interest was also said to be unconstitutional.
“The Bill in paragraph 4 of the first schedule provides that commissioners are permitted to resign by giving notice to the minister. The Constitution provides that commissioners are independent and there is therefore no basis for them to resign to the minister,” they said.