Parliamentarians debate relevance of Human Rights Commission
Chiengi FDD member of parliament Given Katuta has called for the disbandment of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), saying the Commission does nothing to protect the rights of Zambians.
And Kabwe member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube is proposing that the HRC must in fact have a structure similar to that at Legal Aid, where the Commission would have its own prosecutors and begin to prosecute people that violate other people’s rights.
Debating the 2019 budgetary allocation to the Human Rights, Zambia Police and Zambia Corrections Service Commissions in Parliament on Friday last week, Katuta refused to support the budgetary allocation specifically for the HRC, saying the Commission was moribund.
“If we can only have the Human Rights Commission based in Lusaka, how are they are going to reach out to the people in rural areas like Chiengi where there are so many cases of abuse of human rights? There are so many cases which we can talk about, the right to education, right to have clean and good drinking water, sanitation, right to so many things but how does this Commission help the Zambian people? This is where we expect them to come out in full force to be the voice of the voiceless. If you go to Chiengi, the children are learning in classrooms which have grass thatched roofs, they sit on the floor. So already, a human right of that child is being violated and where is the Human Rights Commission? In clinics, women give birth on the floor and the woman’s right is being violated and poor people in our areas do not even know who to approach to say ‘our rights are being violated’,” Katuta said
“If the Human Rights Commission was doing it’s part, it would be sensitising the people of Zambia, especially those in the rural areas to say ‘look, your rights are being violated’. Unfortunately maybe it’s because they are appointed by the government of the day, that’s why they can’t speak on behalf of the voiceless. Honestly I feel like I shouldn’t even support the budget because I have always cried that the Human Rights are mute on so many incidences. I have never heard that the human rights are now in court, they have taken this person to court… there is nothing. The Human Rights Commission is not doing much, no wonder they are not well funded. It cannot be funded if even Zambians don’t even know what they are supposed to be doing. We hear of Human Rights yes, but this is the Commission we expect to work with even the NGOs and other departments and all political parties regardless. But here we see that opposition politicians are mistreated in this country. Their rights are stamped on but the Human Rights is quiet. So Madam Chair, I really have difficulties in supporting this particular budget. Last year I supported but I feel that for the time being, this Human Rights Commission should be squashed off until we see that we have a Human Rights Commission which will not be bias.”
And Ngulube who castigated the Human Rights Commission for its lack of performance, suggested that the Commission be given powers to prosecute.
“We are aware that the Human Rights Service Commission has several difficulties. It’s my proposal that in fact, the Human Rights Service Commission must have a structure similar to that at Legal Aid or MPA, they should have prosecutors. The Human Rights Commission must begin to prosecute some of these people that violate people’s rights. Right now, I don’t know if they have any lawyers. Yes they may have lawyers around but I don’t know how many lawyers go to court. We want to see a Human Rights Commission that has teeth to bite. We do mot just want to hear that ‘at such and such a place, there was such and such a violation of human rights. We want to see the Human Rights Commission dragging people to court and prosecuting them. The Constitution is very clear, ‘people must get compensation if their rights are violated,” said Ngulube.
“We have heard a lot of complaints about the Human Rights Commission, some people the Human Rights Commission is a bad one. This a government institution that entirely depends on government for their funding and for everything. A lot of people in places like Lundazi, Mushindamo don’t even know about the human rights, the only time they hear about it is when they hear it on Radio or read about it in the Newspaper. So we want the Human Rights Commission to being to take up circuits. You need to move, don’t just sit in Lusaka and cry about the establishment. Let us collaborate with Zambia police, they have a lot of transport. The judiciary has a lot of transport, you can go there and ask for some transport to move your officers to go to Mushindamo district to do some operations and come back. You cannot continue crying, as a Human Rights Commission you must be a watchdog to ensure that the rights of our people are protected.”
Meanwhile, Ngulube also condemned the nepotism, tribalism and favouritism in the promotion of officers at the Zambia Police and Correctional Service Commissions.