Justice at last

via Justice at last 8 October 2014 by Magari Mandebvu

Our new constitution is an improvement on the old one. It’s far from perfect, but it contains a number of clauses that do give us a bit more scope to challenge the abuse of power.

You will no doubt point out the cases where excellent provisions in this document mean very little because officials are able to ignore them or, as with Gideon Gono’s efforts to get the senate seat he wants, the highest powers in the land are ready to find ways of getting round any restriction on their power.

We are all the more encouraged when we hear of an example where the constitution puts limits on official power and the victim can get restitution. It is really good news that a citizen has apparently won a court case against abusive policemen.

A man challenged an officer at a police station in Epworth and two of that officer’s subordinates handcuffed him and assaulted him. He took a complaint to court, suing the two cops who harassed him for $3,000. Eventually the case reached the High Court, which ruled in his favour.

Compared to much that happens, this sounds a very small matter, but big trees can grow from very small seeds and that makes it significant.

It was thanks to a clause in the new constitution that a charge could be laid for this action against specific individual police officers rather than some representative senior officer or even the Minister responsible for the police. That makes a big difference because it specifies clearly who is to pay any damages if an offence is proved. I am surprised that such an important incident has not been better publicised.

One case, it seems, has been won. How does that help the rest of us?

If you are mistreated by a police officer whom you can identify, you can sue that officer in the courts rather than registering a complaint through the police force’s disciplinary system.

The High Court has upheld such a case, so the chances that it will do so again are increased. If you have evidence that you were beaten, tortured or otherwise abused by a police officer whom you can identify, you have a good case.

But there is the rub. How do we identify a police officer? They used to display their force number on their uniforms where we could all see the number. It is a long time since I have seen a cop who does that. This can be useful if we want to make the cops at our local police station respect our rights and the law. It’s not much protection against those little boys and girls in grey who dash out of nowhere, smash your windscreen and disappear into a crowd. It’s not much use if they hit you over the head in the same manner, but it does give us a chance of challenging some kinds of police abuse and that is a start.

You are supposed to find a cop’s force number on any ticket or receipt s/he gives you. That might help you in the face of the harassment and dubious fundraising activities at road blocks.

This case needs to be studied more carefully and the conclusions we can draw from it need to be widely publicised. After that, it’s up us.

Are we ready to take the opportunity, even if it means going as far as the High Court for a few thousand dollars of damages?

We should be. It’s not the size of your claim for damages or of the “fine” you are wrongly forced to pay that is most important. It is the challenge to the system in which these things happen so often that in total they add up to serious oppression.

Someone has to stick their neck out. Will that be you?


  • comment-avatar
    Mixed Race 8 years ago

    I am prepared to contribute a dollar per month to a fund to be administered by a reputable law firm, to be used for court cases.If the public can unite and pay a dollar each to this fund then our rights will not be easily violated.We have to liberate ourselves from these injustices through the legal system.What do others think?

  • comment-avatar
    revenger avenger 8 years ago

    Sadly justice in grace lands is a rare event. Pasi zpf. Pamberi mob justice

  • comment-avatar
    Tinomunamataishe 8 years ago

    Does anybody know whether the police are supposed to show their force numbers all the time or not? It could be that the police are supposed to always have their force numbers visible but they are not showing them. That won’t surprise me.

    Police showing their force numbers will help cut down the amount of corruption that there is but Zanu PF is built on corruption and so that may not be a favourable outcome.

    The reason why this case was not publiced shows why Zanu PF would like to control the airwaves as much as they can. That way this kind of news does not filter down to the people who matter who are faced with police brutality on a day to day basis.