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Zimbabwe courts to deal with political violence

by Staff reporter
31 Mar 2023 at 07:42hrs | Views
Magistrates assigned cases of any politically-motivated violence that may occur and be brought before courts, need to be conscious of their role as the guardians of law, peace and order, Chief Justice Luke Malaba told the magistrates national conference yesterday.

In light of the pending elections, some magistrates would be assigned to handle cases of political violence, before, during and after the elections in a bid to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of violence.

As such the Chief Justice expects magistrates designated for that role to contribute tremendously in the prevention of politically-motivated crimes.

The Chief Justice said in any election season the maintenance of peace should be the priority focus for magistrates. He made the remarks during a three-day magistrates national conference that started yesterday in Victoria Falls.

"Tied to the preservation of peace is the need to subdue incidents of violence as some citizens, swept up in the tide of obsessive passion, seek to compel others to submit to their political will through intimidation and through severe cases of brazen acts of violence," said Chief Justice Malaba.

"When left unchecked, these incidents may result in the loss of life and increased lawlessness as members of the public resort to self-help instead of exploring the appropriate legal avenues."

He stressed that failure to preserve peace during this period also affects the transparency of elections, as citizens' votes may be influenced by the need for self-preservation.

To this end, he observed that public safety in the period immediately before, during and after the general election is to a large extent reliant on the competence and diligence of magistrates.

"Designated magistrates must be alive to the demands of adjudicating trials involving politically-motivated violence and the general standard that the law expects them to meet as judicial officers."

The conference aims to equip the magistrates with judicial skills and standards expected of them in any form of adjudication, including electoral adjudication.

 Justice Malaba said not only should citizens be guaranteed a democratic electoral process, but they also deserve to have their cases tried by a judicial officer who meets the standard set out by the law.

Speaking at the same occasion, chief magistrate Mrs Faith Mushure reminded the magistrates that the judicial authority which they are privileged to exercise derives from the people, hence people expect to see matters being disposed of expeditiously, efficiently and effectively.

"Our integrity and that of the court should never be questionable," she said.

"We have a responsibility to inspire confidence to all those who appear before us that justice will always be done irrespective of whether one wins or loses a case."

The conference presented participants an opportune moment for them to collectively make an introspective examination of their work as magistrates, and to find ways to build a competent judiciary that inspires public confidence through improved quality of service.

She urged the magistrates to reflect on what interventions they can further make as a judiciary in quest to discharge their constitutional mandate in a manner that facilitates the accessibility of justice to all manner of people.

"We, as the vanguard of the rule of law and the last line of defence in the justice system, are expected to jealously guard the proper administration of justice." JSC secretary Mr Walter Chikwana said. Magistrates' courts were an important and valued part of the justice system hence the magistrates contributed to the commission's vision in a big way.

"Magistrates impact on our governance since they sit in communities where they are in contact with the majority of the people," he said, adding that contribution by magistrates towards the safety and prosperity of our country could not be over emphasised.

"Magistrates and other judicial officers are therefore in the public eye and should instil confidence to all whom they serve."

Mr Chikwana added that the continuous training of judicial officers would help the country achieve world class justice by 2030.

Source - The Herald
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