Page 2 The Commission Newsletter, August 31, 2017 ZHRC’s ability to go ‘where the angels fear to tread’ impresses Speaker The Commission has come a long way From Page 1 Commission deserved the ‘A’ status and urged the organisation to jealously guard it. Hon Mudenda was particularly impressed by Z H R C ’ s fearlessness in tackling human rights issues. He noted that the Commission goes ‘where angels fear to tread’, to investigate human rights abuses. “To date, the Commission has excelled in its mandate despite constrained financial resources and limited human capital. That is why the ZHRC deserves the ‘A’ status which it must guard jealously,” he remarked. The former Chairperson commended the Commission for producing the 2016 Annual Report which ‘fully complies with the Constitution in as far as outlining its activities and operations carried out in 2016’. He, however, reminded the ZHRC that follow-ups on all cases must be made. This includes suspected cases of human rights abuses referred to the Commissioner General of Police and any other relevant institution in terms of section 243 of the Constitution. On the other hand, the Commissioner General of Police must comply with any directive given to him by the Commission. The conference, which was held under the theme, “An effective National Human Rights Institution (NHRI): What does it entail?” was attended by various stakeholders, among them Development Partners, Civil S o c i e t y Organisations as well as representatives of Government Ministries. ZHRC’s first Chairperson, Prof Reg Austin (left) stresses a point during the interview. T he inaugural Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), Professor Reginald Austin has let the cat out of the bag, revealing why he quit the Commission in 2012 after more than three years in office. Speaking in an interview with ZHRC recently, Prof Austin said the Commission encountered many challenges arising from the legal framework, in particular, section 12 of the ZHRC Act which curtailed the independence of the Commission. Prof Austin reiterated his 26 December 2012 resignation statement: “The word ‘independence’ was included in the final draft (of the ZHRC Act). However, this ‘independence’ was significantly curtailed by Section 12 (6) and (7) of the Act. This effectively grants the Executive (the Minister) a wide discretion, today and in the future, to silence the Commission ‘on the grounds that’ (its investigation of a complaint) ‘may prejudice the defense, external relations, internal security or economic interests of the State’. “It is this discretionary power; to gag the ZHRC, to take away the EDITORIAL COMMITTEE Chairperson: Karukai Ratsauka Compiler/Design & Layout: Shadrick William Members: Misheck Bulo, Linet Sithole, Sarudzai Paungano ‘whistle’ of an institution whose effectiveness and credibility rests upon its transparency and ‘whistle-blowing’ role, which I found unacceptable. As a member of the Commission I would be obliged to obey and implement this law. I can imagine human rights scenarios in which I would find it impossible to obey such an order, and thus it was proper for me to resign.” Although Prof Austin left, he is not shy of commending his peers at the Commission for taking the human rights body this far.

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