HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComment: Olds case —litmus test for judiciary

Comment: Olds case —litmus test for judiciary

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The reopening of the murder trial of two war veterans, accused of the brutal killing of a 72-year-old widow at the height of violent farm invasions a decade ago, provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to test the sincerity of its leaders in their pledge to respect the country’s Constitution.

The Global Political Agreement, signed by the country’s current inclusive government rulers, stresses the need to respect the rule of law and defend the separation of powers and independence of the Judiciary.

The trial of the alleged murderers of Elizabeth Gloria Olds, who was killed under politically-charged circumstances, no doubt comes as a litmus test to the restoration of law, order and justice in Zimbabwe.

The accused are self-proclaimed Zanu PF supporters who also claim to be ex-combatants.

Olds died under a hail of bullets from an automatic weapon, pumped into her as she opened the gate to her Silver Streams Farm in Nyamandlovu in March 2001. Her bullet-riddled body was found in a pool of blood.

Albert Ncube and Robert Nyathi were arrested in connection with the murder, but have been out on bail since then.

At their first court appearance in 2001, the state alleged in its outline that the two men, who were clad in army uniform, shot at Olds 20 times and missed only five times.

The Olds case has been pending for the past decade, delayed for various reasons.

At one time three prosecutors assigned to handle the case failed to do so after quitting the Attorney-General’s Office, and in other instances key witnesses failed to turn up.

Up to 17 witnesses are expected to testify in the trial.

Lawyers for human rights have already expressed fears justice might not be observed.

Given the political nature of the case, the lawyers fear the justice system which in Zimbabwe is already inefficient and slow, might have been compromised.

But this is a chance for the Judiciary and the Executive to prove some metamorphosis has taken place since establishment of the inclusive government and that the rule of law and justice has returned.

When she was gunned down in early March 2001, Olds became the eighth white commercial farmer to be brutally murdered during the government-sponsored bloody land invasions.

In most of the murder cases that took place on the white-owned farms, including that of black workers on those farms, investigations were carried out and accused persons questioned. Most of them were set free and dockets pertaining to the cases disappeared.

There are others, however, like the Olds case, where dockets still exist and where accused persons are alive and known. Such cases need to go through full trial by an independent Judiciary that is free to deliver justice without fear or favour.

There are scores of politically-motivated cases of murder that were recorded during the bloody land invasions when Zanu PF took no prisoners in its claimed bid to correct historical imbalances in land allocation.

More murders were committed in later years and away from the commercial farms when the same party sought to cleanse the country of “sell-outs and Western puppets”.

Perpetrators of this violence must be brought to book and to account for their deeds. The judiciary must deal with these cases with the diligence expected of judges.

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