HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe sorry state of Zimbabwe’s justice system

The sorry state of Zimbabwe’s justice system

Watching Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial underway in a Pretoria court being broadcast on DStv channel 199 got me thinking.

Sunday View by Chipo Masara

Oscar Pistorius, an internationally acclaimed South African Paralympic champion, is standing trial for the shooting and killing of his girlfriend, model and reality TV star Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 2013, Valentine’s Day, and other gun-related charges.

Oscar is sticking to his defence line: that he shot Reeva, who was locked up in a bathroom at his house, believing it was an intruder!

Pistorius has been at the mercy of Advocate Gerrie Nel, a South African prosecutor representing the State, whose grilling of the accused during cross examination on more than one occasion left the latter, in an apparent display of confusion, saying one thing and then moments later, saying something totally different.

Judging from one of the properties he owns, a house he was reported to have put up for sale to raise money to pay his lawyer, Barry Roux, Pistorius is far from being poor. Unfortunately for him, it does not look like whatever riches he owns will do much for him in this case.

Pistorius will stand trial until the very last day when the verdict is read out. The prosecution team in the Pistorius trial has been hailed by the South Africa National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as one of the very best.

The trial has been trending on social networks since the televised trial started, with 1,6 million points of data on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc having been recorded as at April 9 2014 — day 14 of the trial. That is how much global interest this case has attracted and as such, the world is waiting with bated breath for the final verdict.

The way the Pistorius trial is being handled is a good example of what a justice system should be like — guided by the tenets of a sound, fair, transparent and dependable legal structure.
Regrettably, such a legal system that ensures that people are brought to the dock to answer for their cases and are put through a fair trial whose conclusion would determine their fate, is one that Zimbabweans can only dream of.

In Zimbabwe, criminals have been known to be untouchable. Their strong political links ensure they never set foot in a court of law.

Unfortunately, in spite of the glaring inadequacies, there does not seem to be any effort to reform the country’s justice system.
Reforming the justice system requires the transformation of the judiciary into an independent and impartial institution.
Presently, there is total presidential control of the justice system, which has allowed some politicians and state officials to continually enjoy impunity, and to defy court orders, something that has become a major problem in the country. Laws are often applied selectively, making a mockery of the country’s justice system.

The appointment of judges that have been known to be affiliated to the President or the ruling party have made people question the independence of the judges. Some judicial officers have been granted farms, thereby rendering them compromised.

Recently, there has been exposé after exposé of corruption by some people in high offices. However, it would come as a surprise if these corrupt individuals that are bleeding the country dry were ever to see a day in court. And even if they were to be taken to court, chances are high the cases would just die a natural death.

The generality of Zimbabweans have lost faith in the justice delivery system; something that explains why meting out instant mob justice has become popular in the country.

One might be tempted to conclude that Zimbabwe no longer has any justice system to talk about as the system tends to serve only the interests of the powers that be.

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