Back to Index
to fast-tracking of Human Rights Bill victory for parliamentary
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
September 06, 2011
I applaud the
decision by MPs to reject being used as rubber stamping tools for
executive decisions. The principle of separation of powers requires
makes law (not only approve law) while the judiciary interprets
the law made by Parliament and the Executive enforces that law.
So if ministers have approved a Bill at Cabinet level, this does
not mean that Parliament has to agree with such a piece of legislation
as it is a mere proposal. The argument that Parliament should approve
the Bill because this is a matter seized with negotiators to the
Political Agreement, should be dismissed outright because negotiators
should not think that they are the only ones mandated with deciding
for all Zimbabweans. Members of Parliament, civic society and other
interest groups have constituencies and therefore should play an
important role in shaping political, social and economic decisions
in the country. This is what accountable governance is all about.
of legislation is allowed by the rules with the approval of the
House, it is a bad practice which is contrary to the spirit of parliamentary
reforms of allowing Parliament more time to scrutinize proposed
laws and push for amendments in order to come up with statutes that
satisfy the principles of good law.
I am really
puzzled as to why the negotiators believe that they came up with
the best piece of legislation to govern the operations of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights Commission. It is clearly evident to any ordinary person
that the proposed bill has serious weaknesses that must be addressed
in order to come up with an effective Commission. The report by
the Justice, Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio
Committee, which was tabled in the House on Tuesday, was very precise
in terms of the areas that need to be revisited before it is passed
by the House. Some of the key recommendations from the report, which
was compiled after the conduct of public hearings in and outside
Harare, are as follows:
- The scope
of human rights violations should cover all issues covered by
international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a
party. Human rights should be defined not only by reference to
domestic law, but also by reference to all international human
rights instruments which Zimbabwe has ratified or to which it
has acceded. Thus whether the treaty has been domesticated or
not is immaterial.
- That the
functions and mandate of the Commission should be elaborated and
widened in order to comply with international human rights treaties
and that the Commission should be empowered to file its own reports
before regional and international human rights bodies.
should not interfere with the appointment of the Deputy Chairperson
of the Commission and other staff members. These administrative
duties are a preserve of the Commission.
- Matters of
discipline and removal of commissioners should be done by the
Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders which recommended
appointment of these commissioners in the first place.
- The Commission
should submit its reports directly to Parliament and not via the
Minister of Justice.
should be given a retrospective mandate in its investigations
and not begin from 13th February 2009.
clause which gives the Minister of Justice power to refuse information
to the Commission on the basis of such information being prejudicial
to “state interests”. The committee recommended that
such “state interests” should be clearly defined or
the provision removed totally as it was open to abuse.
the Commission to mobilise funding from other sources without
the Minister’s approval. This guaranteed the independence
and autonomy of the Commission.
certainly did an excellent job to come up with such clear and precise
findings and recommendations. Adoption of these recommendations
will no doubt result in a very good piece of legislation that lays
the groundwork for an efficient and effective Human Rights Commission.
I am sure members of Parliament will support fast-tracking of legislation
as long as these well-thought out recommendations are taken on board.
Let me repeat that at the end of the day we all want to see a good
law enacted by Parliament whose enforcement will not face any difficulties.
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.