Judge berates knee-jerk arrests

Chief Justice Luke Malaba

BY SILAS NKALA/RICHARD MUPONDE/PRECIOUS CHIDA

DEPUTY Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza has berated law enforcement agents who are in the habit of rushing to arrest before thoroughly investigating their suspects, saying this had the effect of eroding public confidence and frustrating the tail end of the justice delivery system.

Speaking at the official opening of the 2020 legal year at the Bulawayo High Court yesterday, Justice Gwaunza said investigators and arresting officers should continue honing their skills and conduct thorough investigations before arresting those suspected of engaging in criminal activities.

“Knee-jerk arrests only serve to frustrate the ends of justice,” she said.

“The public will consequently feel let down by the system and such a scenario lends credence to the notorious accusations of catch and release.

“In my address last year, I intimated that there were plans to cascade the anti-corruption courts to all 10 provinces of the country. I am happy to advise that in the past year, the Judicial Service Commission established anti-corruption courts in five additional provinces, Midlands included.”

Justice Gwaunza added that two anti-corruption courts had been established in Harare and Bulawayo, with the identified judges earmarked for training in Uganda later this month.

“The fight against corruption requires the collective effort of all institutions involved in the administration of justice. The public is equally expected to play its part,” she said.

She urged the National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe (NPAZ) to properly advise the police and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on the strength of evidence required to secure prosecutions.

“The pursuit of justice should resonate with a careful, conscientious and professional execution of the constitutional mandate of prosecuting criminal matters in courts,” Justice Gwaunza said.

“Legal practitioners are equally enjoined to play their constitutional role of representing their clients to the best of their abilities and in terms of the law. Legal practitioners are officers of the court and are expected not only to assist the court arrive at just decisions but to behave ethically as well.”

Last year, the country witnessed several arrests of top government officials and ex-ministers on allegations of corruption, but most of the cases have either collapsed or yet to be concluded.

Officially opening the 2020 legal year at the Constitutional Court in Harare yesterday, Chief Justice Luke Malaba revealed that the judiciary will this year introduce live-streaming of cases attracting public and national interest..

Chief Justice Malaba said live broadcasting of cases is vital in promoting transparency and accountability, while members of the general public, who cannot attend court sessions, will be able to know what goes on in courts.

He said live-streaming of the 2018 presidential election petition hearing was an eye opener to the Judiciary, hence the idea to make this a permanent feature.