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Invitation for nominations for Commissioners to look into public complaints against alleged ‘CIO brutality’

Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders (CSRO) has published a notice inviting members of the public to nominate suitable persons to be considered for appointment as the inaugural chairperson and members of the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission [hereinafter referred to as the “Commission”.

The notice was published on Parliament’s website on 12th January 2024 and in the Sunday newspapers two days later.

Detailed self-explanatory instructions on how to submit a nomination are given in the notice and the nomination form.

The deadline for the submission of nominations to Parliament is 16.30 hours on Wednesday 31st January 2024

Background: The Commission is a statutory commission established by the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Act hereinafter “the Act”, passed in 2022 in belated compliance with section 210 of the Constitution.

Section 210 requires that there be an Act of Parliament providing for 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”.

The “security services” are the Defence Forces (Army and Air Force) the Police Service, the intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service (Constitution, section 207).

Apparently, constitutional watchdog Veritas Zimbabwe says it has a special interest in this Commission.

In 2015 Veritas sponsored an application to the Constitutional Court by two aggrieved Zimbabweans for an order against the Government to introduce into Parliament a Bill for an Act complying with section 210.

The application was argued before the court in January 2016. The court eventually, in September 2020, granted an order that such a Bill be introduced within 45 days; see Constitution Watch 10/2020. The Act was promulgated late in 2022.

The Commission has legally existed since the Act was gazetted on 21st October 2022 but that existence has been on paper only, because no official steps have been taken, until now, to appoint the chairperson and members of the Commission.

The President has reserved responsibility for the administration of the Act to himself by SI 189/2023 [link], which means that one must read the Act’s references to “the Minister” as referring to the President; references to “the appropriate Minister”, however, must be read as references to the Ministers of Defence or Justice or Home Affairs or the Minister responsible for intelligence, according to which security service is involved in a complaint [Act, section 2(1)].

Composition of Commission

Section 6 of the Act lays down the composition of the Commission:

(a) a chairperson – who must be a person eligible for appointment as a High Court judge or a sitting judge or former judge;

(b) four other members – one legal practitioner, one medical practitioner, one psychologist [all with not less than seven years’ practical experience] and one person with experience in any security service.

Procedure for appointment

Section 6 of the Act empowers the President to appoint members of the Commission, but adapts the familiar preliminary procedure, laid down by section 237(1) of the Constitution, to be followed by the CSRO for the appointment of members of the independent commissions supporting democracy. There are several stages: advertisement of the position and invitation to the public to make nominations; conduct of public interviews of prospective candidates; preparation of a list of the appropriate number of nominees; finally, submission of two lists to the President. Both lists – nominees for the position of chairperson and nominees for the four other positions –must contain the names of not fewer than seven nominees.

The President must then appoint the chairperson from the CSRO list but only after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission; this follows from section 6(1)(a) of the Act. No such additional consultation is required for the appointment by the President of the four other members by section 6(1)(b), but his choice is still limited to the CSRO list.

Additional Information for Would-be Candidates and Nominators

Veritas comments: We add some information not given in Parliament’s notice that may be of interest. Section 6(2) of the Act provides that all members of the Commission must be chosen for their integrity and competence; section 6(3) provides that section 320 of the Constitution applies to the conditions of office of members, which limits them to one term of five years which is renewable for one term only; requires them to take the oaths of loyalty and office before entering office; and provides that their remuneration must not be reduced during their term of office.

Section 7 of the Act applies section 236 of the Constitution to members of the Commission, which means that members must not in the exercise of their official functions act in a partisan manner, further the interests of a political party or cause, prejudice the lawful interests of a political party or cause, or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.

Commission members who on appointment are members of a political party/organisation must relinquish that membership without delay and in any event within thirty days; and members who become members of a political party will immediately cease to be members of the Commission.

Nomination Procedure

Persons considering nominating candidates for appointment – and the candidates themselves – should carefully study the text of the attachment to this email, which is a document downloaded from Parliament’s website and includes the one-page official nomination form that must be used.

It contains detailed instructions on submitting nominations of candidates for appointment to the Commission.

REMINDER: The deadline for the submission of nominations to Parliament is 16.30 hours on Wednesday 31st January 2024.

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