Friday, 16 November 2018

BIGWIGS CORRUPTION CASES : CHIEF JUSTICE ATTACKS MAGISTRATES

CHIEF Justice Luke Malaba yesterday breathed fire over some magistrates’ lackadaisical approach to high profile corruption cases, which has resulted in the collapse of cases and unjustified release of suspects on bail.

Addressing 46 magistrates manning the Special Anti-Corruption Courts at a training workshop in Harare, the judiciary boss said the lax approach by some magistrates was tantamount to “laundering of criminals”.

The two-day training meant to sharpen magistrates’ skills on how to effectively preside over corruption cases was attended by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi and other key players in the criminal justice system.

Minister Ziyambi, Police Acting Commissioner General Stephen Mutamba, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission’s head of investigation Mr Lovemore Findi and Zimbabwe Law Development Commission deputy chair, Mr Jonathan Zowa, presented papers at the crucial anti-graft training workshop.


Chief Justice Malaba urged judicial officers to treat graft cases with the seriousness they deserved.
The call came at a time Zimbabweans were criticising the entire justice delivery system over making noise when arresting public figures for corruption, but failing to effectively prosecute.

“When people are arrested for corruption, a lot of noise is made,” said Chief Justice Malaba. “The next thing we hear of the granting of bail without good reasons. Some of the cases ended with some order for permanent stay of prosecution.

“Do you think we can safely say we have a functionary criminal justice system under the circumstances? All the system would have done is to launder the criminals. Let us not be placed in the roles of facilitating the laundering of criminals.”

Chief Justice Malaba called for severe penalties for those convicted of corruption cases so that the punishment is deterrent.

“Where an accused person has been properly convicted of corruption, the sentences imposed by the courts must reflect the Government’s and the society’s expectations on the punishment to be meted out to offenders,” he said.

“To that end, severe penalties must follow every conviction for such offences.”
Chief Justice Malaba said magistrates should not allow themselves to be captured by financially powerful criminals because they will end up making funny decisions that impact negatively on the security and the economy of the country.

“Do not let the politics of corruption and power influence you,” he said. “At the end of the day, you make funny decisions. We have the laws to effectively deal with corruption, we have the systems in place, we have the body (magistrate) but we do not have the mind. The mind is being manipulated. It is being used by criminals.”

Chief Justice Malaba urged magistrates to turn a blind eye on the status of an accused person, but to deal with the case brought before them in terms of the law.

“You are not there to be influenced by the status of the person before you,” he said. “Have I not seen him on television? Is he not a minister?
“Once you think of the status of the accused person, just know that you have lost it as a judicial officer.

“You do not think of the person before you, but look at the allegations before you, what the law says and do justice. Once you do that, then be rest assured of our support and protection.”

Chief Justice Malaba urged magistrates to be in control and not to succumb to the delaying tactics by some legal practitioners or prosecutors who always sought postponement of cases.

“To be honest with you, we are acting unconstitutionally,” he said.
“Every case by virtue of the constitutional demand, must be expeditiously dealt with. There is no option. You are the presiding officer and you are in charge of the proceedings. If you have been allowing defence counsel to cause havoc in your court, that is the very basis of failure to understand your job. You have the responsibility to put a stop to all this. Who has the power of remand? It is you. It is neither the prosecutor nor the legal practitioner. They will, of course, abuse you if you do not know how powerful you are as a magistrate. That is the game of corruption. If you continue remanding cases when the witnesses are there, frustrating them and the investigations are complete, that is what we call corruption.” Herald

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