Drug-peddling cop loses appeal

Source: Drug-peddling cop loses appeal | The Financial Gazette June 1, 2017

POLICE doctor has lost an appeal at the High Court against conviction by a Police Tribunal for peddling dangerous drugs to addicts in Bulawayo and Gweru.
Assistant Commissioner Dereck Matsika, who was a medical doctor based at Ross Camp Police Hospital in Bulawayo, lost his appeal at the Bulawayo High Court against a 2013 conviction by the Police Tribunal under the Police Act.

He had been found guilty of “acting in an unbecoming or disorderly manner or in any manner prejudicial to good order or discipline or reasonably likely to bring discredit to the police force”, according to court records.

Matsika was accused of supplying pethidine, a dangerous drug, to addicts in various quantities in Bulawayo and Gweru. He was allegedly working in cahoots with a female doctor at Gweru Hospital.
Pethidine, a narcotic painkiller, is a specified dangerous drug listed in the fourth schedule of the Dangerous Drugs Regulations of 1975. The end users of the drugs supplied by Matsika ended up addicts.
A trap was set up for Matsika using one of his clients, Bennice Rensburg, after which several of his clients were exposed. Some of them testified against him during trial.

“Those who testified as having purchased pethidine from the appellant (Matsika) or being injected with it by him are: Rungano Murambadare Zivanai of Kwekwe, Lee Anne Roberts of Bulawayo and Thomas Kazembe of Kwekwe. They said the appellant was selling them the drug at his residence, doctor’s rooms, in his car, Café Baku, his wife’s flat in Gweru and Midlands Hotel, among others. On occasions, he would inject them anywhere including his car, Midlands Hotel and police officers’ mess,” the court papers said.
“Although the drug is to be administered at a medical institution and kept at an approved place, the appellant did not comply with those rules. While the drug is to be administered by a qualified person like a doctor or a nurse under the supervision of a doctor, the appellant gave those that he supplied large quantities of the drug to inject themselves. The appellant denied the allegations but surprisingly admitted knowing and indeed dealing with Bennice Rensburg, Rungano and Roberts.”
Rungano and Roberts testified that Matsika supplied them with pethidine.

“It is not clear why they would falsify information about him. Although the appellant denied even knowing Kazembe, that witness intimately knew him including where he resided, the vehicles he drove and the name of his wife who also allegedly peddled the drug on the appellant’s behalf as well,” court papers further indicate.

Matsika was found guilty under the Police Act and fined US$500 or alternatively two months in prison.
This prompted him to appeal against both his conviction and sentence at the High Court where he got no joy as Justice Nicholas Mathonsi dismissed his appeal as “spectacularly without merit”.
In his appeal, Matsika — who did not deny supplying the dangerous substance — argued that he had supplied the drug as a doctor in private practice and not as a government doctor. And so for that reason, he argued that he could not be charged under the Police Act.

The witnesses who testified against him saw him as a doctor in private practice and not as a police officer.
However, Justice Mathonsi refused to entertain this argument, but instead described him as having gone “rogue”.

“In my view the trial under the Police Act is disciplinary in nature and therefore designed to regulate members’ conduct. To the extent that it is disciplinary, one must relate with it having regard to the fact that the Police Service is an arm of security services constituted in terms of Chapter 11 of the Constitution. Section 208 (4) of the Constitution actually prohibits serving members of the security services from being employed or engaged in civilian institutions except in periods of public emergency,” the judge explained.

“The court a quo rightly pointed out that as a police officer he was bound to maintain discipline whether or not in police uniform and even after hours. The manner in which he conducted himself did not meet the standard expected of a police officer. In fact, he had become rogue. It matters not that he did this away from police premises. In fact, he did so on one occasion at the Officers’ Mess in Gweru,” Mathonsi added.