‘Lack of forensic evidence crippling justice system’

Source: ‘Lack of forensic evidence crippling justice system’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe


HOME Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe says the country’s courts have failed to finalise several criminal cases due to lack of forensic evidence, resulting in backlogs.

Kazembe said this on Monday in Harare at an event where the United National Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the European Union donated DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) equipment to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Forensic Science laboratory to strengthen the police force’s investigation of violence cases as the country nears the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

He said the country was lagging behind in its justice delivery system as a result of lack of equipment for gathering evidence.

Kazembe said resultantly, the country ended up relying on private investigators.

“The use of forensics to solve the malady of crime in societies has become common place. The world over, the use of DNA analysis to solve crimes such as murder and rape, among others, is one area that has registered immense success. Regrettably, the ZRP had been seriously lagging behind in this regard,” he said.

“DNA analysis was being subcontracted to private institutions, whose charges were prohibitive. The timeous analysis of samples will, indeed, ensure that justice is delivered without delay.”

Kazembe said in cases of rape, assault and murder, the State had been relying on witness testimony and physical evidence that doesn’t undergo forensic examination, which was a major setback to justice delivery.

He said in other cases, the lack of forensic evidence led to false allegations.

Unicef country representative Tajudeen Oyewale said:  “Reporting and justice administration remains a challenge because a majority of cases, especially of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) offences are often committed in private and without any witnesses.

“This lack of evidence hampers the functionality of the justice system and does serve as a deterrent for reporting. To address this gap, Unicef together with ZRP and other stakeholders, in 2020, conducted a comprehensive forensics assessment aimed at identifying bottlenecks and gaps in using forensic evidence in SGBV cases in Zimbabwe.”

Oyewale said the most glaring gaps were identified in the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences in Zimbabwe, as there was lack of technical capacity to analyse samples and generate evidence.

“It is against this backdrop that we embarked upon this important support to put in place capacity and highly specialised equipment required in the forensic laboratory of ZRP under the Spotlight Initiative, a joint partnership between the United Nations, the European Union and the government of Zimbabwe. The Spotlight Initiative is dedicated to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, while ensuring justice for survivors,” he said.

In Zimbabwe, the National Baseline Study on the Life Experiences of Adolescents conducted in 2010 indicated that 43% of adolescent girls aged between 13-17 years reported that their first sexual encounter was unwanted.

GBV continues to plague the country especially at a time when the economy is plunging, causing many negative effects like depression and mental disorders on citizens.

The United Nations Population Fund states that in Zimbabwe, about one in three women aged 15 to 49 had experienced physical violence, while one in four women had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.