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HUMAN Rights activists this week questioned the appointment of former chief immigration officer Elasto Mugwadi and other short-listed candidates to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) saying some of the commissioners were unfit for the job given their history.

The activists said some of the commissioners had no “demonstrable” records in the human rights field.

President Mugabe last month appointed ZHRC commissioners, Mugwadi, Kwanele Jirira, Carol Khombe, Joseph Kurebwa, Jacob Mudenda, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, Neseni Nomathemba, and Ellen Sithole in line with Constitutional Amendment Number 19.

The commissioners were appointed by Mugabe after they were nominated by parliament’s standing rules and orders committee chaired by House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo.

The human rights activists were in particular angry about Mugwadi’s appointment.

Mugwadi, the activists said, would be a handicap to the integrity of the commission. This followed his refusal in May 2003 to comply with a High Court order blocking the deportation from Zimbabwe of American journalist Andrew Meldrum, a permanent resident.

Meldrum, then Guardian correspondent, was deported for allegedly writing “unfavourable” stories about the then Zanu PF-led government, despite having a legal basis to continue practising journalism.

“Some of the appointments have raised eyebrows and it is difficult to understand how persons with no demonstrable records in the areas into which they have been appointed can properly discharge their mandates,” a human rights lawyer who asked for anonymity said.

“Lawyer Elasto Mugwadi was the chief immigration officer when Andrew Meldrum was unlawfully deported from Zimbabwe,” the human rights lawyer said.  “The officers who were involved in the abduction of Meldrum at all times acted with the knowledge and connivance of Mugwadi, who was their boss.  The various court orders which prohibited Meldrum’s deportation were personally served on Mugwadi who was therefore at all times aware that Meldrum’s deportation was against the law.”

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has since confirmed that Meldrum’s rights were violated when he was unlawfully deported.

“The question that immediately comes to mind is how Mugwadi can in fact be a human rights watchdog when he is in fact a human rights violator,” questioned another activist.

“How does someone who has undermined the rule of law by ignoring court orders suddenly become a human rights commissioner?  And how did the MDC formations agree to this appointment?”

Mugwadi’s appointment, the activist added, would “undermine the credibility of the Human Rights Commission even before its work starts”.

Efforts to get a comment from Mugwadi yesterday were in vain.

Apart from Mugwadi, the activists also queried the appointment of perceived Zanu PF apologists, Jacob Mudenda and University of Zimbabwe political scientist Joseph Kurebwa.

Other commissioners were described as “nonentities who have no track record of upholding or even speaking out in defence of human rights. –– Staff Writer.

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