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Rights commissioner set to be dropped

A CONSTITUTIONAL glitch has emerged in the newly sworn-in Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) after an administrative lapse landed National University of Science and Technology professor Carroll Temba Khombe on the commission in the belief that he was female.

Parliamentary sources this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that the eight-member rights commission which was sworn in by President Robert Mugabe last month was likely to drop one male commissioner for a female office bearer after failing to meet the gender quota stipulated in the constitution.
The supreme law dictates that four out of the eight commissioners should be female but the commission is currently composed of three women, Ellen Sithole, Kwanele Jirira and Nomathemba Neseni. Veteran lawyer Reg Austin chairs the commission.
The sources said the presidency, which has the prerogative to appoint commissioners, mistakenly picked Khombe’s name from the 16 short-listed candidates chosen by the parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) after last year’s public interviews.
The animal science professor scored relatively high marks in last October’s interviews but would be approached soon and requested to “voluntarily resign”.  
Speaker of the House of Assembly Lovemore Moyo who chairs the SROC could not be reached for comment yesterday, but the sources said the “mix-up” would be resolved amicably.
“It’s not the kind of mistake that would raise eyebrows. The name Carroll in this part of the world sounds feminine,” said the source. “The SROC is likely going to meet soon and furnish the presidency with possible female candidates who can be considered.”
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga whose ministerial powers were controversially shifted by President Robert Mugabe to the Justice ministry said he was kept in the dark during the recruitment exercise.
“My ministry for some strange reason was not given the responsibility over the commission. I say strangely because every sane person would think so,” said Matinenga in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“If the commission is not properly constituted it simply means that it is not in compliance with the constitution. You cannot have a legitimate commission if it does not adhere to the provisions of the constitution. So there is need to put in place corrective measures to correct the situation. The parties (SROC) must sit and determine where that particular person (an additional male commissioner) came from. They should also resolve to have that person resign.”
Efforts to get comment from Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa were in vain as he was reported out of office until next week.
Parliamentary watchdog Veritas last week said it was “illogical” to grant the Justice ministry the mandate to oversee the ZHRC, a constitutional body created under Constitutional Amendment No19.
“This is illogical, given that the president has assigned responsibility for the Constitution, which enshrines human rights and under which the commission is appointed, to the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs,” read the Veritas weekly update.
Apart from the administrative setback, analysts say the absence of the Human Rights Commission Act which will administer the commission is again going to be a handicap for the sworn-in commission.
With parliament currently adjourned any new Bill is likely to be introduced before the House after mid-June.


Bernard Mpofu

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