The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe monitored the public hearings on the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Bill and had 200 of its members- Women Leadership Networks (WALANs) attending in all the ten provinces between 07 and 11 June, 2021.
The hearings were led by the joint portfolio committees on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services under a generally peaceful environment with participants being given an opportunity to freely participate in the process.
It must, however, be noted that in some of the areas commencement of hearings was delayed as the Parliamentarians arrived late. During the monitoring exercise, WALPE also noted with concern that the hearings were not adequately advertised limiting the full participation of citizens in the process.
Some of the submissions made during the ZICC Bill Hearings include:
The call to review the administrative powers which the Bill is giving to the President and the relevant Minister. Participants felt the commission must report straight to Parliament instead of going through the President and minister with the former being the appointee of commissioners thus threatening its independence.
The need for former members of the security services to be excluded from the Commission. Section 6 provides for appointment of an observer by the head of a security services department which erodes the whole independence of the Independent Complaints Commission Bill.
The need for extension of the prescription time within which a rape case can be filed with the Commission from three years to at least 20 years considering the complex nature of the offence.
The need to clearly define what matters are going to be held in camera in order to provide a conducive environment for complaints to give evidence freely without fear of intimidation.
The Commission must be given arresting powers like the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) not just investigate and recommend which is limiting.
The Commission must create a safe and conducive environment for women and girls to lodge their complaints including making sure that cases reported by women and girls are investigated by a woman investigator.
The need for the complainant to have a right to legal representation of choice just like the accused person.
Civil society and the church must be allowed to observe the hearings.
The call to fire investigators who breach confidentiality, intimidate complainants or request for bribes.
All members of the state security agents found guilty of gross misconduct must be banned from ever holding public office and imprisoned.
WALPE also developed a gendered model Independent Complaints Commission bill which it shared with Parliament on Friday, 18 June 2021 for possible adoption or incorporation.
The model bill highlights key women and girls issues that needs to be incorporated into the draft bill in order to create a conducive environment for women and girls victims to freely seek recourse.
Some of the recommendations if adopted will improve the independence and effectiveness of the Commission.