Constitution Watch 3-2014

CONSTITUTION WATCH 3/2014

[28th April 2014]

Unpacking and Giving Effect to the Constitution

Parliament Invites Public to Nominate Candidates for Appointment as

Commissioners of Independent Constitutional Commissions

Introduction

In press advertisements Parliament has invited members of the public to nominate candidates for appointment to the following independent constitutional Commissions, i.e., the Commissions provided for by Chapter 12 of the Constitution:

- Zimbabwe Electoral Commission                                      2 vacancies

- Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission                             1 vacancy

- Zimbabwe Gender Commission                                        7 vacancies

- Zimbabwe Media Commission                                           8 vacancies

- Peace & Reconciliation Commission                                8 vacancies

[The full text of the advertisement is available from the addresses at the end of this bulletin.]

The closing date is Friday 23rd May.  See the note below on how to submit a nomination.

Note: Parliament’s advertisement does not mention the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, which cannot presently muster a quorum because of vacancies.  This Commission falls under a separate Chapter of the Constitution [Chapter 13], but the appointment procedures match those laid down for the other five Commissions.  Presumably there will be a separate call for nomination of candidates for appointment to it.

The Constitutional Background

The Constitution provided for the existing members of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Commission to continue in office [Sixth Schedule, transitional provisions].  Vacancies have since arisen on the Electoral Commission [Professor Feltoe and Mr Nyathi resigned last year] and the Human Rights Commission [the chair fell vacant when Mr Mudenda accepted election as Speaker of the National Assembly], and the terms of office of all members of the Zimbabwe Media Commission are due to expire relatively soon.  Steps need to be taken to fill these vacancies. 

It is also necessary to make first-time appointments of chairpersons and other members of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, two new independent Commissions established by the Constitution.

The President appoints but Parliament nominates

It is for the President to appoint the members of all five independent constitutional Commissions.  But section 237 of the Constitution makes Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] responsible for nominating persons for the President to appoint, and the President must make the appointments from lists of nominees submitted by the CSRO. 

 The procedure laid down by section 237 requires the CSRO to take the following steps for the purpose of making nominations:

  1. advertise the position
  2. invite the public to make nominations
  3. conduct public interviews of prospective candidates
  4. prepare a list of the appropriate number of nominees for appointment [see below]
  5. submit the list to the President

Number of nominees needed  Where there are 7 or 8 vacancies to be filled on a particular Commission, the CSRO must submit a list of at least 12 nominees to the President.  It follows that where there are 1 or 2 vacancies, a list of at least 3 nominees must be submitted. 

Qualifications for Candidates

Parliament’s advertisement sets out in full the qualifications for Commission members as stipulated in the relevant sections of the Constitution.  Briefly, they are as follows.  [The additional qualifications for chairpersons are not relevant to the present exercise.]

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

Members must be Zimbabwean citizens and chosen for their integrity and experience and for their competence in the conduct of affairs in the public or private sector [Constitution, section 238(4)]

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

Members must be chosen for their integrity and their knowledge and understanding of, and experience in, the promotion of human rights [Constitution, section 242(4)].

Zimbabwe Gender Commission

Members must be chosen for their integrity and their knowledge and understanding of gender issues in social, cultural, economic and political spheres [Constitution, section 245(2)]

Zimbabwe Media Commission

Members must be chosen for their integrity and their competence in administration and their knowledge and understanding of human rights issues and best practices in media matters [Constitution, section 248(2)].

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission

Members must be chosen for their integrity and their knowledge and understanding of, and experience in, mediation, conciliation, conflict prevention and management, post-conflict reconciliation or peace building [Constitution, section 251(4)].

[The full text of the Constitution is available from the addresses at the end of this bulletin.]

Procedure for Submitting Nominations to Parliament

Closing date

Friday 23rd May 2014. 

Nomination material

The material to be submitted consists of:

- a completed nomination form [the form is obtainable from Parliament or can be downloaded from Parliament’s website www.parlzim.gov.zw]  [Also available from Veritas – see the addresses given at the end of this bulletin.]

- a typewritten submission of no more than two A4 pages long stating why the person nominated is a suitable candidate.

This must be placed in an envelope addressed to the Clerk of Parliament and clearly marked with the name of the Commission to which the nomination relates.

Address

Nominations must either be posted, hand-delivered or emailed to:

The Clerk of Parliament

Parliament of Zimbabwe

Parliament Building

Cnr Kwame Nkrumah Ave and Third Street

P.O. Box CY298

Causeway, Harare

Email:  clerk@parlzim.gov.zw

Note on Appointment of Chairpersons

Chairperson are or will soon be needed for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.  The Constitution lays down a different procedure for the appointment of Commission chairpersons.  The President also appoints chairpersons, but he is not obliged to make appointments from a list of nominees supplied by the CSRO.   Instead, the Constitution provides that the  President appoints a chairperson “after consultation with”:

- the CSRO, in the case of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the  Zimbabwe Media Commission

- the CSRO and the Judicial Service Commission [JSC], in the case of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission [these three chairpersons must be legally qualified].

Section 339(2) of the Constitution explains what “after consultation with” means.  Briefly, the President must inform the CSRO or, as the case may be, the CSRO and the JSC who he proposes to appoint and why; give them a reasonable opportunity to make recommendations or representations about his proposal; and give careful consideration to any such recommendations or representations. 

The President is not obliged to follow any recommendations made by either the CSRO or the JSC.  If, however, he makes an appointment that is not consistent with a recommendation of the JSC, the President must cause the CSRO to be informed of this fact as soon as practicable.  For example, the CSRO would have to be informed if the President appointed someone the JSC has said should not be appointed as chairperson. 

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

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