Dumisani Muleya/Blessing Zulu
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has further tightened the decree on the detention of suspects to ensure that no bail is granted for 21 days in circumstances where there are prima fa
cie grounds for a charge.
Before the decree was amended suspects could not apply for bail for 14 days in matters where there was a prima facie case. Suspects will however still be detained for seven days where there is no prima facie case regardless of the amendment.
The first Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) regulations were contained in Statutory Instrument (SI) 37 of 2004 promulgated on February 13.
The latest amendment, SI 41, is said to have come into effect on February 20.
The original version says a “judge or magistrate shall order his (suspect’s) further detention or issue a warrant for his further detention for a period of twenty-one days (unless the charge is earlier withdrawn), and no court shall admit such person to bail for a period of fourteen days from the date when an order or warrant for his further detention” is issued.
According to the new one, “unless the charge or charges against him (suspect) are earlier withdrawn, (he shall) remain in detention for seven or 21 days, as the case may be, from the date when an order or warrant for his further detention was issued … no court shall admit such a person to bail during that period”.
Meanwhile, lawyers for jailed Zanu PF central committee member and Telecel chair James Makamba, who is facing allegations of illegally externalising foreign currency, have challenged the presidential decree.
Makamba, who has spent 25 days in detention, was arrested on February 9 and first appeared in court on February 14. Since then he has been trying to secure bail and a hearing on the mater continues today in the High Court.
In his application to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Makamba’s lawyer, Sternford Moyo, said Mugabe’s recent edict was “unconstitutional, null and void”.
“The applicant (Makamba) respectfully submits that these regulations are unconstitutional in that they allow the executive to usurp judicial functions in violation of Section 79 of the constitution,” Moyo said.
“They violate the presumption of innocence contained in Section 18 subsection 3 of the constitution.”
Moyo said Mugabe’s regulations “render ineffective the right of an accused to be brought before a court as contained in section 13 subsection 4 of the constitution”.
President Mugabe recently used his emergency powers to amend the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to ensure people arrested on suspicion of specific commercial crimes are detained for up to two weeks without bail where there is a prima facie case.
Moyo said the changes purported to “substitute the opinion of a policeman for that of a judicial officer and thereby allow the executive to usurp judicial functions”.
“The resultant situation is injurious to the administration of justice and the reputation of the judiciary and the image of the country,” Moyo said. “The country will, inevitably, be perceived as a police state.”