28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Independent Body to Investigate Abuses By Security Services

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

Any complaints and allegations of misconduct against the members of the notorious armed forces will be investigated by an independent body to be created through an Act of Parliament in the new constitution.

It is hoped this new law, contained in the final draft of the charter to be presented to Parliament next week, will help curtail the type of human rights abuses that have defined Robert Mugabe's rule since independence in 1980.

Chapter 11 (208) of the draft stipulates that members of the security services must act in accordance with the constitution and law.

'No member of the security services may, in the exercise of their functions act in a partisan manner, further the interests of any political party or cause or prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause.

'Members of the security services must not be active members or office-bearers of any political party or organisation and serving members of the security services must not be employed or engaged in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency,' said one of the chapters on the conduct of members of security services.

Roy Bennett, the exiled treasurer-general of the MDC-T and a victim of a 'malicious political vendetta' by hardliners within the military, said the new set of rules on the conduct of the security services was a step in the direction.

Bennett told SW Radio Africa on Monday that he thought the country was falling in line with all respected constitutions in the world, saying he believes every single member of the security forces must be loyal to the constitution and not any political party.

'It is a fundamental constitutional right to be protected by the armed forces of your country and not to be abused by them just because of your political beliefs,' he said. 'Though this new constitution is not perfect, one thing is clear on the armed forces. Its either they're part of the solution or they will remain part of the problem. If they're part of the solution there is a very sound future for Zimbabwe.

Part of that solution is sitting down and working these things out for peace, justice and healing in the country. If they're part of the problem, they will be going against the constitution and in the same process breaking the laws of Zimbabwe and will be dealt with by the laws of the country,' Bennett added.

United States based political analyst Dr Maxwell Shumba said under the new constitution, most of the armed forces' operations will be closely monitored by Parliament.

'Besides their operational duties, Parliament, through this complaints body will be able to monitor their behaviour especially in public. When this constitution becomes law, utterances we have heard from generals openly supporting ZANU PF or defending Mugabe will be seen as violating the laws of the country,' Shumba added.

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