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Police prosecutors face axe

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THE fate of members of the security forces seconded to the National Prosecuting Authority to ease the shortage of prosecutors in the country’s courts, now hangs in the balance after an application seeking to disengage them from the courts was heard at the Constitutional Court yesterday.

SENIOR COURT REPORTER

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who headed the nine-member bench, reserved judgment in the matter after submissions were made by Prosecutor-General (PG)’s representative Sharon Fero and applicant’s lawyer Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara.

Justice Chidyausiku took the PG’s Office to task in order to explain why its role should be performed by police officers.

“Why do you want the police to do your job? We in the Judiciary do not want to have police officers as magistrates,” Justice Chidyausiku said.

“Give us one good reason why we should have police prosecutors as opposed to civilian prosecutors . . . In principle I do not see the reason why the PG would want his job done by police.”

Responding to the question, Fero said the practice of engaging security force members as public prosecutors had been long established arguing the reason was unattractive conditions of service in the judiciary.

“The use of security forces in not a new phenomenon, but the practice has been in existence since time immemorial. The reason was that there were not many applications for the job because of unattractive conditions of service while some individuals did not want to work outside Harare,” Fero said.

Fero further said there were no provisions in the Constitution that precluded security forces from being engaged as prosecutors.

The application seeking to compel PG Johannes Tomana and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa to phase out the use of the police and army personnel as public prosecutors, was filed by the Zimbabwe Law Officers’ Association and former public prosecutor Derek Charamba.

In his submissions on behalf of the applicants, Zhuwarara said the use of the security forces to perform prosecutorial duties in civilian courts was in violation of Section 208(4) of the Constitution.

“Engagement of police and army officers to prosecute in civilian courts is a misnomer. This practice cannot be condoned, tolerated or excused in a democratic society,” Zhuwarara said.

“The mechanics of birthing a public prosecutor are different from those put in place to bring about a police officer or an army officer . . . they (police and army prosecutors) are part of the security system and cannot be engaged in civilian institutions since they are bound by specific rules of discipline.”

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