- Last Updated on 14 May 2012
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The fundamental principle underlying the right to a fair trial is that every individual is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Thus no one individual should be treated like a criminal until a court of law has passed a decision declaring them so. Even if the circumstantial evidence points to the guilt of the individual, they must still be given the opportunity to go through all the motions of a trial to present their case, present mitigating circumstances if they are there and receive a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of their crime. The major problem with the justice system in Zimbabwe is that the application of these factors is always unpredictable and their fair application seems to depend on the political affiliation of both the victim and the accused.
There has been unwarranted harassment and intimidation of MDC activists who were detained, released and then detained again in remand prison for the past 11 months for allegedly murdering a Glenview police officer in May 2011. They are being held in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, receiving inadequate food, and constantly denied bail. The High Court of Zimbabwe keeps postponing their bail hearing indefinitely since their arrests and imprisonment, stating that they are a flight risk.
While it is also reported that they were severely assaulted, tortured, brutalised and denied access to medical treatment, the state sponsored public media houses are making noise about it, broadcasting and spreading falsehoods that MDC-T members connived to kill the police officer. The public media is neither the police nor the prosecuting authority but have already concluded that the 29 Glen View residents are guilty. However, as Zimbabweans debate and analyze this unfortunate incident, it imperative to draw it closer by making a retrospective look into almost all or similar incidences that have taken place in the countrylately .
On 17 March 2012, police in the mining town of Shamva, in the Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe, killed a man, Luxmore Chivambo. His crime was apparently related to the disappearance of a purse containing some money and a cell phone of the wife of the officer in charge at Shamva Police Station. Residents at Ashley Mining compound, including Luxmore, were savagely attacked by police officers as the officers tried to recover the stolen 'goods'. The police officers who were seen killing them were released on $50 bail by the same court which has on numerous time dragged their feet and denied bail to the 29
The million dollar question that lingers in the minds of many, as the selective investigation process is currently underway is; Are police officers more important than ordinary civilians, hence making their alleged murders more critical and their alleged assailants guiltier than those who kill ordinary people? Is the known crime of police officers, who clearly ill-treated citizens to whom they owe a constitutional mandate to protect, a less serious offence than that of rowdy citizens who allegedly attacked a police officer?
Justice goes far beyond the court room, as its fundamental goal is to build a peaceful democracy in Zimbabwe, it should not be delayed nor denied We are all equal before the law.