Heal Zimbabwe notes with great concern the attack on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) by President Mugabe during his address to ZANU PF central committee on 10 September 2016. In his address, President Mugabe dismissed as “absolute falsehoods” claims by the ZHRC on partisan distribution of food aid. This is despite the fact that the findings by the ZHRC were based on empirical evidence from a research carried out in Bikita East, Buhera North, Mazowe Central, Muzarabani North and South and Zvimba South.
Heal Zimbabwe’s view is that the findings of the ZHRC commission are valid and they further substantiate the weekly conflict update reports sent out by Heal Zimbabwe from rural areas focusing on the general political environment where in most cases partisan food aid distribution is cited as a source of potential conflict and tension. The President as head of the Executive should rather be greatly concerned by the findings of the ZHRC and launch an investigation into the matter. Dismissing a research by an Independent Commission that is supposed to promote transparency and entrench a culture of human rights should be condemned.
Such attacks on Independent Commissions with a constitutional mandate should be condemned in the strongest terms. The attack sets a wrong precedence and compromises other independent commissions like the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) which is also expected to deal with sensitive issues like political violence and issues of torture, arson and killings. If issues of food aid can warrant such attack on an independent body, it only shows more sensitive issues such as addressing violations of the past might face more vicious backlash and such a scenario will not be good for peace and democracy.
It is Heal Zimbabwe’s view that the Executive should adhere to the principle of separation of powers and leave independent bodies to execute their duties. Heal Zimbabwe remains worried that the interference by the Executive in the functions of Independent Commissions such as the ZHRC directly violates Section 235 of the Constitution that states that Independent commissions should not be subject to the direction or control of anyone and must exercise their functions without fear, favour or prejudice. The attacks on the ZHRC come hardly a month after the President issued similar threats on judiciary which was widely condemned by civic groups.
Heal Zimbabwe implores the Executive to uphold its constitutional mandate of respecting the constitution as supreme law of the nation and ensure protection of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rule of law.