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Resource Shortages Limiting ZHRC’s Mandate

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says resource constraints are making it difficult for them to undertake their prescribed duties.

The commission is one of the key chapter 12 commissions set up through the constitution to promote, protect and enforce human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined under the Bill of Rights. The operational legal framework of the ZHRC is provided for in the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act [Chapter 10:30].

However, the commission’s Executive Secretary, Delis Mazambani told women in Bindura during a Peace Committees meeting organized by the Institute For Young Women’s Development (IYWD) that her office is currently under-resourced to offer its services nationwide making it difficult to access quality justice for citizens.

“We are having difficulties in ensuring that we undertake our mandate to the nation which limits access to justice, especially for women in rural communities.

“Our wish is to ensure that we reach all corners of the country and we offer what we can to everyone but we remain inaccessible to all who need us. Right now, we are only operating in three provinces due to resource constraints.

“We want to be in all districts but without adequate resources, it remains a huge task, “Mazambani said.

The commission, Mazambani said, currently constitute 15 lawyers who help with legal and other services.

She encourage women to advocate on the commission’s behalf to have more resources availed to it.

“If you can push for them to be funded that will be welcome. Tell the authorities that we need to access the Chapter 12 Commissions. Push for them to be in your districts,” Mazambani added.

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The shortage has made it difficult for women to have their issues addressed as most of the time their concerns are turned away.

Some of the women who attended the meeting bemoaned the inaccessibility of the commission saying it leave room for more human rights abuses and they fall at the mercy of the perpetrators.

However, Mazambani said despite them being under-resourced, they remain committed to offering quality services nationwide through the established human rights clinics.

“As ZHRC we have Human Rights Clinics which offer legal advice and other services to people. We have 15 lawyers who are legal services to people,” she said.

IYWD’s Knowledge Management and Documentation Officer Tinotenda Chihera said they conducted a situational study earlier this year which revealed that in Zimbabwe, young women and women are currently facing a number of conflicts from social, political, economic conflicts and it was clear from the study that the effects of this conflict and human rights violations are more prejudicial on women.

“The effects are more pronounced on young women and women looking at their marginalized position already in society and we also realized that the chapter 12 institution, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the NPRC are very centralized in nature with offices in Harare and Bulawayo and you’ll find that when women would like to access these institutions it’s quite far.

“We realized that from the study most of the young women and women that were interviewed actually professed ignorance to the chapter 12 institution. They do not know about this Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the NPRC hence this is why we then conducted a peace committee training for this particular intervention in which we brought the ZHRC to the young women in Bindura for them to be able to interface with them, understand their role better, to understand the complains and investigations handling mechanism and for them to forward their issues to the ZHRC in person,” Chihera said.

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She noted that there is a need to foster access to justice and social cohesion; a sense of belonging, sense of community for young women.

Meanwhile, the ZHRC says it is apolitical in its duties as it approaches cases without a political bias.

This comes after several complaints have been made against the commission.

“We are apolitical, we do not take any sides. We look at a case the way it was brought to us.  We have handled a lot of political cases and we treat them as they are without bias,” Mazambani noted.

She shrugged off reports that they get directives from the appointing authorities in order to influence cases.

“I have never received a directive from anyone on how a case should be handled. We execute our duties in the best possible manner and we submit our reports based on how we would have handled cases.

“We use taxpayers’ money and that means we need to create a difference in their lives. If someone calls from wherever they are, we should be able to assist 24/7,” she said.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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