By Daniel Nemukuyu
Corruption syndicates comprising police officers, prosecutors and magistrates are reportedly soliciting bribes from suspects before organising acquittals through sloppy investigations and prosecution.
All this starts at the police station where suspects are discouraged from engaging lawyers, with rogue officers assuring them of acquittal and seeking bribes that are lower than what a lawyer would charge in any case, without that same degree of certainty of acquittal.
Half-baked investigations are then done before the bribed investigating officer takes the case to a prosecutor, who will be part of the syndicate, for vetting.
During the trial, there is under-prosecution, leaving the magistrate with no option, but to clear the suspect.
The allegations were made at an all-stakeholders’ anti-corruption conference in Harare yesterday by Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) executive secretary Mr Edward Mapara and backed by Police Assistant Commissioner Joseph Nyabasa.
The conference was organised by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and Transparency International Zimbabwe.
In most cases, Mr Mapara said, the suspects were acquitted, hence corruption continues unabated.
LSZ said it had received a number of complaints, with Guruve Magistrates’ Court allegedly one of the hotspots.
Mr Mapara called for an all-stakeholder’s approach to curb the illicit practice.
“We have engaged the police, prosecution, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and prison authorities over the issue, but the syndicates continue demanding bribes. We will continue engaging them until we win the fight. Together we will end the corruption.
“As lawyers we went to law school with a view to practice law, develop the law and fend for our families, but the corrupt syndicates have taken over,” he said.
Police Assistant Commissioner Joseph Nyabasa confirmed the collusion between investigating officers and court officials.
“Accused persons may pay the police officers so that they carry out weak investigations that will lead to an acquittal. We have arrested a number of errant police officers for such corrupt practices after colluding with the suspects.
“At times our officers collude with prosecutors and judicial officers to facilitate a corrupt acquittal of a criminal. This frustrates the complainants and erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system. They take the suspects to prosecutors, part of the syndicate, who will place the case before a judicial officer of their own,” he said.
ZACC commissioner Mrs Jessie Majome added her voice to the scandal, saying she had received complaints from legal practitioners.
“I have heard a number of lawyers complaining of the corrupt syndicates in the justice delivery system. Something must be done to curb the crime,” she said.
ZACC chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo warned those in the criminal justice system against corruption saying justice must not be sold.
“It is a tragedy when those of us who serve in the justice sector bend the law in exchange for monetary bribes or favours in kind by losing case files, evidence or even suspects, delaying proceedings, issuing questionable sentences or providing prisoners with preferential treatment.
“In return, citizens may turn to informal justice mechanisms, sometimes run by corrupt cartels and mafia-like structures, to resolve conflicts and secure their rights. Ultimately, the legitimacy of the State is undermined. Ladies and gentlemen, if justice can be bought, it becomes worthiless.
“Equality before the law should not be for sale to the highest bidder…” she said.
A chief law officer at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mr Michael Reza said prosecutors were corruptly consenting to bail to suspects who do not deserve the freedom. The Chronicle