Parly crafts law to investigate mysterious deaths

THE Coroner’s Office Bill, which will provide for establishment of an office responsible for investigating all deaths due to unnatural causes, has gone through its second reading stage.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who brought the Coroner’s Office Bill before the National Assembly on Tuesday told the House that the Bill will repeal the Inquest Act.

Among other things, the Coroner’s Office Bill will also repeal the Inquests Act (Chapter 7:07), and amend the Birth and Deaths Registration Act (Chapter 5:02) and the Burial and Cremation Act (Chapter 5:03).
The last time an inquest was made followed the death of the late Army General Solomon Mujuru, who died during an inferno whose cause is still unknown.

“The Coroner’s Office Bill provides for the establishment of an office responsible for investigating all deaths that come about as a result of unnatural causes and sets out the appointment, functions, and powers of the Coroner-General, deputy Coroner-General and coroners in relation to postmortems, inquests and their findings,” Ziyambi said.

“Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the establishment and constitution of the Coroner’s Office of Zimbabwe and clause 4 describes the functions of the office, primarily investigation of deaths which appear to come about in a sudden, suspicious or violent manner and deaths occurring within 24 hours of a patient arriving at a health institution and death occurring during treatment or care,” he said.

Ziyambi said all staff of the Coroner’s office shall be civil servants.

“Clause 7 enjoins custodians of health or medical records to preserve medical records, and the clause criminalises wilful and reckless destruction or failure to preserve documents. Clause 8 lists people given the duty to report unnatural deaths and also gives time frames within which such deaths should be reported,” he said.

The Bill says any death caused by unnatural means can be reported by any person aged 18 years and above who is a relative and dwells in the district in which the deceased person died, or any person above 18 who was present during the time the deceased died of unnatural means.

The Bill also outlines circumstances when postmortems and inquests should be conducted or dispensed with, as well as provides for a review mechanism for any person aggrieved by a coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest.
The coroner is also expected to publish their findings and observations after the investigations or observations.

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