Zimbabwe Organization for Youths in Politics (ZOYP) conducted a community engagement meeting in partnership with the Alliance of Community-Based Organizations (ACBOs) under the Peace for Justice project in Gokwe.
ZOYP is an organization that aims to cultivate a generation of responsible young leaders by amplifying youth voices in politics. They strive to capacitate and motivate young people, encouraging them to actively participate in politics through capacity-building, networking, and leadership skills enhancement training.
ACBOs, on the other hand, is a consortium platform that promotes networking, peer learning, and institutional capacity strengthening among member organizations. They work to develop common strategies for collaboration in enhancing community development initiatives. The Alliance seeks to unlock democratic space in Zimbabwe and increase grassroots community participation in shaping and informing democratic governance in the interest of their communities.
During the event, Gokwe residents presented a powerful drama portraying corruption within the judiciary authorities in Zimbabwe. Through their performance, they illustrated how corruption begins at the police level and extends to the magistrate court.
In a subsequent discussion between ZOYP and the Gokwe residents, it was revealed that, in many cases, the less privileged individuals are at a disadvantage when issues are reported to the police. As demonstrated through their drama, a girl who was a victim of rape did not win her case due to the accused person bribing the police. The police, in turn, communicated with the magistrate court, leading to a judgment in favor of the accused person.
“We wanted to highlight the prevalence of corruption within the justice system as it affects the most vulnerable members of our society. It is disheartening to see true justice being undermined by these corrupt practices that hinder the well-being and safety of our community.”
It is with a renewed sense of urgency that organizations like ZOYP and ACBOs continue their efforts to shed light on these critical issues and work towards a transparent and fair justice system that can truly serve and protect all members of society.
Additionally, the participants emphasized the importance of educating people about the operations of the magistrate court. They believe that by equipping individuals with knowledge, they can better protect and fight for their rights using proper legal channels. Many cases of suffering and injustice occur due to a lack of understanding of the law.
The residents of Gokwe expressed deep bitterness and frustration towards the corrupt and unjust system of jurisdiction. Highlighting the pervasive nature of bribery, they firmly stated, “Bribery is the root of all evil. People are not hesitant to commit crimes because they are aware that the police can be bribed to destroy evidence and withdraw reported cases, regardless of how serious the crime may be.”
They further emphasized the urgent need to cut off the chain of corruption and bribery in the country for the sake of peace and justice. They pointed out that Zimbabwe’s development is hindered by the increasing corruption, benefiting the privileged few who continue to amass wealth, while leaving the less privileged drowning in poverty. Criminals often resort to bribing law enforcement officials to ensure their cases are closed swiftly, perpetuating a cycle of injustice.
Residents also highlighted the injustice prevalent in courts, particularly in cases of rape, where the most vulnerable, such as the less privileged, become victims of a flawed system. They expressed their disappointment with the police’s knowledge of tactics to protect criminals, often neglecting cases and focusing on minor issues instead.
One resident who pleaded for anonymity shared a personal experience, stating, “Sometime in June 2023, I went to the charge office to report a recent theft, but I was met with frustration. They told me that there were no vehicles available to investigate the scene, and I had to write a report to the dog section crew, resulting in a lengthy wait.”
In light of these concerns, State representative Fatuma Tekera, the National Prosecutor for Gokwe Magistrate Court, provided invaluable knowledge to the people of Gokwe on how to address legal issues and navigate court services effectively. Her insights aimed to empower the community and equip them with the necessary tools to seek justice and promote fairness in the judicial system.
“The constitution should serve as the guiding principle for everyone to understand what truly happens within the courts and legal systems, especially Chapter 4, which predominantly focuses on human rights. It is crucial for each individual to be familiar with their rights, thus enabling them to eliminate injustice and bribery. Everyone should feel empowered to speak up if they witness any form of injustice. For individuals involved in criminal cases or appearing in court, it is essential that they have knowledge of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, Chapter 9.23. This knowledge will help prevent victims from being doubtful about the steps taken by the police and the state.
“The state takes into account the previous convictions of offenders. If an offender has no prior involvement in court cases, there may be a chance for the Magistrate to reduce the charge, provided the offender maintains good behavior for a specific period. However, in more severe cases such as murder and rape, the charges remain fixed—for instance, a rape case carries a sentence of 15 years without negotiation,” she explained.
Furthermore, Tekera emphasized that the court examines the circumstances surrounding each case, differentiating between unintentional and intentional crimes. The court takes into consideration what led to the commission of the crime when passing judgment. Tekera also highlighted the importance of knowing that the right to bail is a constitutional right. Individuals seeking bail must appeal for it before entering a plea, and the court assesses the reasons for the appeal before the state approves it.
Tekera further encouraged residents who have been remanded in custody for more than 14 days to speak out. She made it clear that individuals are not permitted to spend more than 14 days in custody without returning to court for trial. Additionally, she advised individuals in custody not to accept remand before receiving a 242 Form, which is a request for remand. Tekera also urged the community not to hesitate to come forward as witnesses in court if they have evidence and proof of a crime. Their participation in providing evidence can contribute significantly to the pursuit of justice.
“Court provides transportation fees for witnesses who need to travel long distances, ensuring that there are no barriers for them to come and witness the crime if they have clear evidence of what truly happened,” emphasized Fatima.
Solomon Ruzoka, a former police officer with over ten years of experience who also served as a Superintendent Prisons officer for a decade, shared valuable insight on the steps residents can take to eradicate corruption and injustice within the legal system, while also highlighting the importance of not generalizing and condemning all police officers. He emphasized the significance of understanding the distinction between Common Law and Statutory Law.
“Negligence by police officers can occur within police stations. If you feel that your report is not being handled with justice or you are uncomfortable, do not hesitate to approach higher authorities such as the District Police Office and share your story. I encountered a similar case while working at the Mutora charge office. The complainant came to report a rape, and I filled the docket and brought her to the police station. Unfortunately, she experienced three days of bleeding before receiving attention. It was then that I took it upon myself to approach the District Police Office.
“…in many cases, there are ‘Scene Attendance’ and ‘Scene B Attendance.’ If your report requires ‘Scene Attendance,’ it means the police must take immediate action to attend or approach the scene. However, it is often observed that some individuals in positions of power demand money to initiate action. It is crucial to be cautious and not pay any money, as it is strictly prohibited. In the case of ‘Scene B Attendance,’ police officers are expected to respond within 48 hours from the time of the report.”
Ruzoka stressed that corruption is deeply ingrained in Zimbabwe and that it is essential for individuals to be vigilant and report any cases of corruption they encounter. By doing so, they set an example for others and contribute to the overall fight against corruption.
“The pervasiveness of corruption in Zimbabwe requires each and every one of us to be vigilant. We must not hesitate to report instances of corruption, serving as examples for others to learn from,” Ruzoka added.
Lameck Dube emphasized that corruption is a deeply rooted issue in Zimbabwe that hinders both devolution and development. He highlighted the importance of tackling this problem professionally, without fear or favor, regardless of who, how, or where it takes place, “Corruption and bribery are the root of evil in Zimbabwe, and it is crucial for us to approach this issue with professionalism to put an end to it. Everyone must play a role in monitoring corruption.”
Dube further explained that when individuals approach a corrupt office with their case, they are often met with demands for money in exchange for assistance. Even if they escalate the issue to a higher office, they soon realize that there is collusion between the two offices, leading to a consistent response that perpetuates the corruption, “This chain of corruption is a menace that requires the intervention of professionals such as corruption fighters from organizations like ZACC, PACCO, ZIMHAWKS, among others,” Dube stated.
Programme facilitator, and ZOYP Manager Polite Agape Ndlovu, addressed the reassured everyone that more programs would be implemented in rural areas to help educate and empower communities about peace and justice.
“We are committed to bringing more programs that will enhance people’s understanding of the jurisdictional systems in order to eradicate corruption. On October 25, 2023, we were in Kwekwe with National Police Spokesperson Commissioner Paul Nyati, discussing the issues of corruption and drug abuse as a national menace,” Ndlovu said..