News / Regional
'Zimbabwe legal system hostile to pathologists'
17 Mar 2017 at 06:20hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE's legal system is so hostile to expatriate forensic scientists to the extent that the pathologist who handled the politically-charged Cain Nkala case was forced to flee the country, a medical specialist has said.
Maxwell Hove, a University of Zimbabwe Medical School trainer in pathology told delegates at the Coroner's Office Bill consultation workshop underway in Bulawayo, that Zimbabwe has had to review its agreement with Cuba after a pathologist seconded to the country was harassed following liberation war commander Solomon Mujuru's death in a freak fire and the subsequent inquest.
"Zimbabwe, since 1980, has been relying on expatriates for forensic expertise. This has brought a lot of complications because of the adversarial nature of the country's legal system.
"In 2002, we had the case of Cain Nkala who was abducted and found in shallow grave just outside Bulawayo. A Tanzanian specialist was called in and he went there and did his job as Nkala was exhumed. He was a key witness in court," Hove said.
Nkala then leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association died in mysterious circumstances that authorities tried to link to opposition MDC activists. Government critics argued his killing was a Zanu-PF inside job.
"However, when he (Tanzanian pathologist) went to court, he was put under a lot of pressure [and was] thoroughly challenged. He left the police force and fled Zimbabwe through Botswana. He later came back and tried to re-join the police force but the police refused to take him back," Hove said.
Zimbabwe then went for three years without a pathologist "forcing families into funerals that ran for up to a year before burial."
Government then inked an agreement with Cuba with the Caribbean island's pathologist's first major assignment being the Mujuru case.
"The Cuban specialist was called to the scene and told that there was a person in the ashes there. The Cuban specialist was grilled, but he stood his ground and the matter was concluded.
"After the grilling of the Cuban specialist in the case, the Cuban government reviewed its position and said, we have an agreement (with the government of Zimbabwe), but we can't expose our doctors to this (court grilling)," he said, adding some people did not accept the results of the inquest.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to Hove has "specified that the Cuban forensic pathologists cannot testify in court."
"As a result, we have a lot of cases that are not done properly. We have a lot of murderers walking around free," Hove told delegates arguing for the establishment of a Coroner's office.
"We need an independent investigator, especially in cases where the police are accused. We need an independent investigator, who will be able to go to prisons and ascertain if people who die in prisons would have really committed suicide. The science of it is very technical and can tell us if someone has been strangulated or hanged, in cases that involve the high offices."
Source - newsday