The Constitutional Court recently issued an ultimatum to the government to set up an Independent Complaints Commission (ICM) which will investigate security forces implicated in human rights abuses and acts of violence.
The ICM which will be set up through an act of parliament will be in accordance with Section 210 of the constitution.
Once operational, this key mechanism will receive and investigate complaints from members of the public about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm caused.
The Zimbabwe security forces have been committing human rights violations including violent attacks, abductions, torture, arbitrary arrests and other abuses against the opposition, government critics, and activists.
Too often, the government has been reluctant to investigate the implicated officers, a move largely blamed on the politicization of the army.
Heal Zimbabwe Director, Rashid Mahiya told 263Chat recently that the order is a victory for the citizens and the constitution.
“We think it’s a victory for the citizens, a victory for constitutionalism, it’s a victory for accountability because we want people to be held to account, and institutions need to be held to account.
“Because if the militarization of the state in Zimbabwe, we need to ensure that citizens can get justice and this mechanism should be able to provide that,” Mahiya said.
He further noted that it is unfortunate that the ICM will come at a time when some heinous crimes have been committed and there is the likelihood that those post violations will not be held to account in the new law.
“A number of events have taken place since our appeal to the court and the passing of the judgement. You look at the military coup of 2017, the events of 2018 and 1029, civilians were shot on cold blood.
“You look at the violations that were done by the security forces but because all these events happened before the passing of the bill, we cannot use the part of the constitution yet. We were denied that opportunity as citizens,” he said.
The order comes at a time when the country is witnessing a surge in cases of abduction and torture of citizens allegedly by members of security services.
The recent case being that of the Zimbabwe National Student Association (ZINASU) President, Takudzwa Ngadziore who was abducted and tortured by alleged members of the security services while delivering a press conference.
Before Ngadziore’s case was a case of Tawanda Muchehiwa, nephew to ZimLive Editor, Mduduzi Mathuthu who was abducted by state agents and was subjected to torture and all sorts of degrading treatment for three days.
The evidence of his abduction by members of the security services was captured on video but to date; no one has been held accountable over the abduction.
Commenting on the developments political violence survivor Hilton Chironga, who in 2015, together with Heal Zimbabwe took the ConCourt to task over the issue, highlighted that the order is a relief for survivors of violence, spanning from as early as 1983 throughout to the 23rd of September 2020 when the order was issued.
“Since 1983, our uniformed services have been active in committing heinous atrocities and the individuals have not been held to account. I hope when finally institutionalized, the Independent Complaints Mechanism will bring a never again era in which our soldiers and police officers will not shoot at unarmed civilians, harass or torture civilians and escape justice.” He said.
However, Mahiya said he is aware there will challenges in the ICM due to the timeframe given by the courts hence implementation will become the biggest impediment.
He also said there are likely to be issued on the composition of the mechanism.
“In our application, we obviously knew there would be challenges in terms of the actual implementations but the fact that there is that ruling and the fact it is provided for in the constitution, it means that we are going to participate in the process and ensure that victims of violence are going to participate in the process of this law and who makes it up,” Mahiya added.