The Magistrates’ Association of Zimbabwe has condemned what it described as the “arbitrary” arrest of Manicaland provincial magistrate Billiard Musakwa by the police in Mutare this week and called upon Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to intervene.
The association issued a scathing statement on Thursday saying Musakwa’s arrest was calculated at intimidating magistrates in order for them to endorse patently unlawful decisions by the police.
“As a union of magistrates in Zimbabwe, we want to make it abundantly clear that we will never raise our hands in exasperation and surrender the duty imposed upon us by the laws of this country to administer justice impartially without fear or favour,” reads the statement.
The union said the police must be aware of their constitutional mandate which is not to prosecute or adjudicate in any matter but to arrest suspected offenders. The association took a swipe at the manner Mutare police conducted themselves in handling Musakwa’s matter.
“The bully tactics exhibited by the police in this case will not sway magistrates into making uncivilised and injudicious decisions in order to please anybody. Magistrates are not answerable to the police and the belief that police officers or anybody can question judicial decisions must be exorcised from police officers’ minds,” it said.
Musakwa was arrested for allegedly releasing a suspected rapist and businessman Farai Rimayi after the state declined to prosecute.
Prosecutor Truman Joma was also arrested.
A statement by chief law officer Michael Mugabe detailing they had declined prosecution and the reasons thereof was filed in the record of proceedings.
When the magistrate acted according to the state’s suggestion and released the suspect, the police arrested him and accused him of releasing a criminal.
“We therefore call upon the Police Commissioner General whom we know is an educated man and one who has never disrespected the magistracy in the past to rein in his officers and instruct them to exercise restraint and not to approach matters with shut minds. They abused their powers and must be dealt with decisively,” said the association.