President Emmerson Mnangagwa has gazetted into law the Zimbabwe Independent Complaints Commission Act, which paves the way for people to report acts of misconduct by security services.
The law is mandated by a constitution adopted in 2013, and its urgency was further buttressed by the Motlanthe Commission which investigated the 2018 post-election violence during which security forces shot at least 35 people, killing six.
Kgalema Motlanthe, the former South African president, concluded that soldiers had used “excessive force” in trying to quell protests triggered by delays in announcing election results.
Mnangagwa signed the new law last week, according to the Government Gazette of October 21.
The commission’s mandate is “to investigate any complaint made by any person or his or her behalf against any misconduct on the part of a member of a security service in the discharge or purported discharge of the member’s functions.”
Security services include soldiers, intelligence officers and prison officers.
On paper, the commission must provide an independent and impartial mechanism for the investigation of misconduct by members of security services, but government critics question if the Zanu PF government is willing to allow scrutiny.
Security forces typically act on political orders, and despite Motlanthe’s call for soldiers involved in the August 2018 killings to be prosecuted, the government has dragged its feet.
The new law requires members of the security services “to act in accordance with the law when conducting their duties.”
It continues: “They also are not to act in a partisan manner; further the interests of any political party or cause prejudice to the lawful interests of any political party; or cause or violate the fundamental rights or freedoms of any persons.”
The offences that will fall under the commission’s remit include “any death as a result of actions of any member of the security services, unjustified discharge of an official firearm by any member of a security service, rape by a member of the security service, whether the member is on or off duty, rape of any person while that person is in the custody of a security service, the torture or assault against any member of a security service in the execution of the member’s duties.”
The law imposes a three-year time limit for complaints.