COMMISSIONS WATCH 5/2021
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC]
[29th March 2021]
Parliament Calls for Public Nominations of Persons to Fill a Vacancy
on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission [ZHRC]
Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has published an advertisement set out below notifying a vacancy that is to arise within the Commission. The advertisement is self-explanatory and calls for members of the public to nominate persons who they think should be considered for appointment by the President to the vacant position.
The ZHRC is established by Chapter 12 of the Constitution but existed long before the 2013 Constitution. The ZHRC came into being in 2008 by the Global Political Agreement signed by ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations at that time. It was then given effect by a Constitutional amendment and then later on established in the 2013 Constitution in Chapter 12. The ZHRC thus holds a special place in our democracy in that it is a commission that seeks to promote awareness and respect for human rights amongst other functions. Without the realisation of human rights and the work of the ZHRC, our label as a democracy is brought into disrepute. The character and integrity of ZHRC nominees therefore is of great importance.
As aforementioned, the published advertisement calls for nominations to fill only one vacancy. The five year term of office of one of the current Commissioners is coming to an end in September 2021. The advertisement explains in detail the qualifications required of candidates, the functions of the Commission as set out in the Constitution and how nominations should be submitted. Important points are that:
- there is a deadline – nominations must be received at Parliament before 4.30 pm on Friday 30th April 2021;
- an official nomination form must be used – this may be obtained from Parliament [details in the advertisement] or can be downloaded from the Veritas website [link] – and a separate nomination form must be used for each nominee.
- Nominations may be submitted by email [an email address is provided] as well as more old-fashioned methods.
Other Relevant Points for Would-be Candidates and their Nominators
Ineligible persons [Constitution, section 320(3)]
The following persons are not eligible for appointment: members of Parliament, members of provincial or metropolitan councils, members of local authorities [city and town councillors, local board members, rural district councillors] and members of government-controlled entities [board members of parastatals and government-controlled companies].
Commission members to be non-political [Constitution, section 236]
Commissioners must not, in the exercise of their functions, act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause, prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause, or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any person.
A member of a political party or organisation may be appointed to the Commission, but must without delay and in any event within thirty days of appointment relinquish the membership – failure to relinquish within 30 days means automatic and immediate forfeiture of the appointment. If a Commission member becomes a member of a political party or organisation, he or she immediately ceases to be a Commission member.
Term of office [Constitution, section 320]
The term of office is five years, renewable only once.
What Happens after Parliament Receives Nominations?
Section 237(1) of the Constitution spells out what must happen after the CSRO receives nominations. The CSRO will conduct public interviews of prospective candidates [the venue and date will be advertised to enable public attendance], prepare a list of nominees for appointment, and then submit the list to the President.