BY FARAI MATIASHE
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday launched a national pre-trial diversion (PTD) programme aimed at advancing a non-custodial system in Zimbabwean child justice jurisprudence.
According to the current laws in the country, people aged 18 and below can be sentenced to imprisonment, depending on the type of the offence. Though the Prosecutor-General has the power to either prosecute or decline when it comes to juvenile cases, most juvenile offenders are still passing through formal court processes, even for minor offences. But with the
PTD programme, which was introduced in 2009, children in conflict with the law are no longer subject to incarceration, but may be sent to centres that deal with rehabilitation of
“The Child Justice Bill, which sets the minimum age of criminal responsibility at ten year, but we can raise it, establishes a mechanisms of dealing with children who lack criminal capacity, establishes child courts, enhances diversion of children in conflict with the law from the formal criminal justice system, promotes the best interests of the child and prevents child delinquency through restorative justice,” Ziyambi said.
“Once the Bill becomes law, the objectives of diversion, which include preventing future criminal activity among young offenders by diverting them from traditional processing into community supervision and services, and saving prosecutive and judicial resources for concentration on major cases, will be achieved.”
Ziyambi, whose ministry received a donation of computers and furniture for the PTD offices from the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the donation would ensure that officers manning the new stations would hit the ground running in ensuring that the objectives of the PTD programme were realised. Unicef country director Laylee Moshiri said her organization would continue to support the Justice Ministry and hoped the PTD would be included in the Justice Bill.
National Prosecuting Authority PTD programme co-ordinator Tafadzwa Makwande-Havazvidi said she hoped there was going to be PTD programme-raising awareness campaigns. “When the programme started, we faced resistance from communities, particularly those victims who would want to see the offenders prosecuted,” she said.