The move by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku to censure police prosecutors is a step in the right direction to ensure the justice delivery system caters for everybody.
Besides, there is no doubt that some security personnel doing prosecuting duties do not have the adequate legal knowledge of judiciary functions and tend to complicate some of cases heard in courts.
As a result, it appeared the security personnel acting as prosecutors were working at cross purpose with other stakeholders such as lawyers and others to the detriment of the public.
Magistrates are known to have complained behind closed doors about the conduct of these security personnel who, in most cases, have sometimes fallen prey to accepting bribes. This is so common especially to those that have worked as police officers, who allegedly connive with investigating police officers which result in some cases being thrown out because of lack of evidence. Hence Chief Justice Chidyausiku’s observations are valid because these policemen have compromised a profession largely performed by men and women who have studied law as a discipline.
Years ago, these policemen were seconded to the courts because there was a critical shortage of trained public prosecutors.
However, Zimbabwe has for over the past 35 years churned out thousands of universities law graduates struggling to get employment.
It is imperative for the Ministry of Home Affairs to take its policemen back to manning the police posts around Zimbabwe that are operating with scant human resources.
Their experience at the courts will greatly enhance and speed up dockets compilation as they will have accumulated vast knowledge on how these court documents are prepared for prosecution.
Other security forces seconded to the courts include soldiers from the Zimbabwe National Army.
Phasing out these people will improve service delivery as personnel with the requisite professional qualifications will be able to quickly clear backlogs of criminal and civil cases.
The Zimbabwe Law Officers’ Association (ZLOA) is justified in filing an application to phase out employment of security personnel in this specialised profession.
The application made by ZLOA represented by Tawanda Zhuwarara clearly stated that engagement of police and army officers is an anomaly, a practice that cannot be condoned, tolerated or excused in a democratic society.
Security forces are bound by specific rules of discipline which do not apply to civilians and the continued use of these people will frustrate lawyers who have highlighted serious problems handled by these security personnel.
Although State representative Sharon Fero noted that the use of security forces is not a new phenomenon because there are not many professional people wanting to work in the courts due to unattractive working conditions, it is important to draw the line to ensure smooth delivery of justice to the people.
It is also important for government to create room for qualified law graduates as there is a serious shortage of prosecutors countrywide. We wonder why the Prosecutor-General (PG) should allow his role to be performed by police officers. Would the same be acceptable if roles were switched to have lawyers or soldiers run police stations or policemen taking over army camps across the country?
We believe PG Johannes Tomana should remove security forces seconded to the National Prosecuting Authority for purposes of effective and efficient justice delivery.