Heal Zimbabwe welcomes the report by the Portfolio Committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs on the recent public hearings on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 2 Bill.
Before Amendment No 2 Bill was gazetted, Heal Zimbabwe was seized with advocacy work on the need for government to align existing laws with the constitution as well as the full implementation of the constitution. It is against this background that Heal Zimbabwe on January 13 2016, took the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister to the Constitutional Court over delays in providing an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about the misconduct of members of the security services in compliance with section 210 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, a provision which is yet to be aligned to the constitution.
The report by the portfolio committee all but confirms Heal Zimbabwe’s position that plans to hurriedly amend the constitution were sinister and premature given that the constitution has not been fully implemented. One among many of those provisions include section 210 of the constitution that provides for the independent complaints mechanism. This important provision, once functional, will receive and investigate 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. In the report, the portfolio committee remarked that one of the major issues expressed by the public during the hearings was on the need to urgently align laws and full implementation of the constitution rather than rush to amend it. The committee also implored government to prioritise the alignment of laws to the constitution and its full implementation. The report also noted that Clause 19 of the Bill that provides for a process on the appointment of the prosecutor general on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) compromises issues such as accountability and transparency. On the extension of the women’s quota, the committee report noted that the majority of participants highlighted that there was need to fully implement sections 17, 56 and 80 of the constitution. These sections provide for 50/50 representation, which is a positive step towards the attainment of gender equality in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5.
The committee report also recommended that there was no need for the creation of the office of the public protector, but instead implored the state to strengthen the already existing chapter 12 independent commissions supporting democracy.
However, Heal Zimbabwe noted that the committee recommended that the promotion of judges by the president can be done without public interviews but must be on the advice of the JSC. It is Heal Zimbabwe’s view that the process of promoting judges must be done through a rigorous process that assesses the judicial temperament, courage and integrity as well as civic and professional responsibility of judges to be promoted. All these qualities can only be scrutinised through public interviews.
In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores Parliament to withdraw the Bill since the majority of citizens noted that there was need to urgently align laws and full implementation of the constitution rather than rush to amend it.
Heal Zimbabwe — through its social media campaign #ImplementDontAmputate — will continue to mobilise and rally citizens to resist and reject the proposed constitution amendments. In future, Heal Zimbabwe implores Parliament to conduct such consultative processes in a conducive environment that does not endanger the lives of citizens given the context of Covid-19 and the rapid increase of cases every day.