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Gender Composition of Zimbabwean Rights Body Challenged As Unconstitutional

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Legislative monitor Veritas said Section 100 R (3) of the Zimbabwean Constitution specifies that at least four members of the commission should be women, but only three were sworn in by President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwean non-governmental legislation monitoring organization Veritas and legal experts have challenged the composition of the new Human Rights Commission saying it violates the constitution because the number of women on the panel falls short of what is prescribed.

Veritas said Section 100 R (3) of the Zimbabwean Constitution specifies that at least four members of the commission should be women, but only three were sworn in by President Robert Mugabe last month following the commission's formation.

Veritas said in a news release: "This defect will have to be put right as a matter of urgency ... Presumably, one of the male members will have to resign to allow for a fourth woman to be appointed."

House Speaker Lovemore Moyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the gender shortfall was due to an error on the part of Mr. Mugabe who mistook the name of one of the men for that of a woman, saying the mistake will be corrected.

"My understanding is that [Mr. Mugabe's] office is working on fixing it," Moyo said.

The female members of the newly-formed rights body are Ellen Sithole, Nomathemba Neseni and Kwanele Jirira. Their male counterparts are Reg Austin, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube, Elasto Mugwadi, Jacob Mudenda, Joseph Kurebwa and Carroll Khombe.

Because the Human Rights Commission is a first in Zimbabwe, Parliament has yet to come up with an act governing its functioning. Rights activists have hailed the body's introduction saying it will help prevent human rights breaches by the government and particularly, state security apparatus.

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