22 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Security Services Watchdog on Cards

Government will soon constitute an independent body aimed at reviewing and investigating complaints against the security arms of the State in line with the Constitution, a senior official has said. Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabiza said the Ninth Parliament would be seized with the alignment of the constitutional provision, which compels the Government to set up such an independent body to receive complaints from members of the public.

She said setting up such a body was provided for in Section 210 of the Constitution.

"We have been liaising with the Office of the President and Cabinet. It is an alignment issue. It is indeed a constitutional requirement that we have such an independent body in terms of Section 210," said Mrs Mabiza in an interview yesterday.

"We will ensure that this Parliament passes a law that seeks to align with Section 210 and once that is done the independent body will be constituted."

Section 210 of the Constitution provides as follows: "An Act of Parliament must provide 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."

Early this week, a local think tank, Veritas, expressed concern over the delay by Government in setting up the independent body, which it said was overdue.

"Section 210 of the Constitution has still not been implemented over five years after the main parts of the Constitution came into force on August 22, 2013. The section provides for setting up an independent body to receive and investigate complaints against the security services, that is, the Police Service, the Defence Forces, the State intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service," it said.

"The need for an independent complaints mechanism is obvious. The Police and the Defence Forces are the coercive arms of the State which the Government employs to enforce obedience to the law and the maintenance of public order. As coercive arms they can use force, and if they do there will inevitably be complaints about their use of it. In the interests of the public, and to protect their own reputation, it is important for these complaints to be investigated fully and impartially by an independent body."

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