The new Zimbabwean Constitution in Section 245 provides for establishment of the Gender Commission which is part of a series of independent Commissions established to promote transparency and accountability. The Gender Commission Bill was gazetted on 25 July 2014 and was presented before Parliament by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development on the 27th of August 2014.
Problems in the Bill:
1. The Bill contravenes the Constitution in that:
- It detracts from the Commission’s constitutional independence by placing the Commission under the absolute control of the Minister.
- It empowers the Minister to issue policy directives to the Commission significantly undermining its independence.
- The Bill gives overarching powers to the Minister in respect of the appointments and terms of office of both Commissioners and secretariat staff and the power to dismiss Commissioners for “unsuitable” conduct.
2. The Bill narrowly construes the scope and duties of the Commission to investigating only systematic barriers prejudicial to gender equality.
3. The Bill creates a closed circuit institution that is not obliged to provide information on investigations to any person outside the state. There are no requirements for access to information or publication of Commission business undermining Section 62 Constitutional provisions on access to information
4. The Bill does not empower the Commission to act upon its findings directly neither does it adequately extrapolate the powers of the Commission.
- Redraft the Bill to establish the independence of the Commission both in its powers and functionality.
- Clearly articulate the powers of the Commission
- Include clear reporting mechanisms, publications and timelines on accessing information on the Commission.
- Ensure the Commission has the necessary powers to address its findings.