Shoddy police work blamed for acquittals

Source: Shoddy police work blamed for acquittals – DailyNews Live 22 January 2017

Tarisai Machakaire

HARARE – Human rights lawyers have squarely blamed investigators for their
faulty police work, accusing them of investigative amnesia and guilty
omissions, which led to the absence of solid cases in the courts against
pro-democracy campaigners.

More than 100 Zimbabweans will in January stand trial on various charges
related to staging protests against President Robert Mugabe’s
administration over the deteriorating political and economic conditions in
the country.

Courts have so far thrown out several cases against pro-democracy
activists in their entirety because of the shoddy investigations and the
procedural mistakes in the many trials that magistrates said were so
unsound they could not be considered just.

Legal experts believe that the acquittals pointed to bungled work by
police investigators.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could not immediately comment on the
accusations yesterday, saying she was tied up at a function.

Opposition legislators, pro-democracy campaigners and ordinary citizens
are among those who have been hauled to stand trial in January and
acquitted in a month in which Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (Zlhr)
lawyers among them Jeremiah Bamu, Tonderai Bhatasara, Trust Maanda,
Kudzayi Kadzere, Obey Shava, Dorcas Chitiyo, Sharon Hofisi, and Gift Mtisi
had a busy schedule in the country’s courts.

Some of the activists that have been acquitted include National Vendors
Union leader Sten Zvorwadza, #Tajamuka leader Promise Mkwananzi, advocate
Fadzai Mahere and Patson Dzamara.

Human rights lawyer Bamu said police were fuelling erosion of the rule of
law in Zimbabwe owing to their shoddy probes.

“The State continues to embarrass itself by bringing half-baked cases to
courts. The prosecution has unashamedly become a conduit through which the
police persecute citizens who are deemed not to be in line with the wishes
of a Police State that they seek to transform Zimbabwe into,” Bamu said.

Most cases have been thrown out for either lacking evidence, being
malicious, with some found to breach the liberties guaranteed by the new

“The approach adopted by our police shows they are not adhering to the

“They rush to arrest before investigating and in the end embarrass
themselves by putting the justice system into ridicule,” Mtisi, a human
rights lawyer, said.

“They overload the courts, denying deserving cases an opportunity for them
to be dealt with within a reasonable time.”

Shava, a Zlhr award winner, said police have diverted from their mandate
of protecting the public to torturing them.

“…their activities undermine gains from the 2013 Constitution such as
the right to demonstrate, petition and political rights.

“That conduct also contradicts their constitutional mandate to protect and
serve the very people they are currently persecuting and intimidating
through malicious prosecution.

“To a greater extent, indeed conduct of the police leaves much to be
desired and instead of promoting rule of law, they are focused on rule by
law which entails a lot of subjugation of the masses, violating their
freedom of expression, association, and conscience.”

Liberty Gono, a legal practitioner at Machaya and Associates, said the
police must investigate before arrest and seek opinion from superiors if
the investigation officer is not sure whether the matter is criminal or

“If there is reasonable suspicion that a crime might have been committed,
only then can an arrest be made if the matter is not trivial and sent to
court, full docket compiled and the matter is prosecuted.

“There is no need to arrest a suspect on trivial matters….the law is not
concerned with trivial matters or de minimis non curat lex,  meaning
police should advise as such….(and then the courts will) fine, caution
or counsel.”

Gono said there should be no distinction between matters involving
anti-government activists and other matters police handle, saying law
enforcement agents should be impartial in execution of their duties.

“Matters involving anti-government activists are only problematic in that
they come with certain instructions attached, leaving the junior
investigation officer with no room to form his opinion as whether a crime
has been committed or not and whether to arrest or not.

“In cases of activists, when a docket is compiled and brought to
prosecution, prosecutors should decline half-baked cases which clog our
courts,” Gono said.