Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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‘Erosion of judiciary’s independence in Zim’

‘Erosion of judiciary’s independence in Zim’

September 25 2011 at 01:25pm


Politically motivated arrests, ahead of general elections scheduled for 
2012, seem to be on the increase in Zimbabwe.

This is according to a report on the rule of law in Zimbabwe, compiled by 
the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, which also 
raised concerns about the systematic erosion of the independence of the 

The report is the result of a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe led by former 
High Court Judge Unity Dow, from Botswana. IEC head advocate Pansy Tlakula, 
Chicago-based human rights and international law professor Bartram Brown and 
UCT constitutional and human rights law professor Christina Murray were also 
part of the delegation.

The group spoke to a number of law bodies, lawyers and NGOs including 
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. “The rate of arrests also appears to have 
increased dramatically since some members of Zanu-PF began calling for an 
early election and an end to the inclusive government. Zimbabwe Lawyers for 
Human Rights, which maintains a hotline to assist people arrested on 
politically motivated charges, told the delegation that it received 300 
requests for assistance for the whole of 2010, but this had jumped to 800 
for the first six months of 2011,” the report said.

While the numbers vary, it is believed that between 200 and 300 people were 
murdered in 2008 election violence, while the International Crisis Group 
reported that 15 000 “serious violations were recorded” including torture. 
Amnesty international reported that more than 9 000 people were tortured and 

“These figures have been dismissed by Zanu-PF supporters,” the report said. 
“It should be noted that the current wave of arrests fit into a broad 
pattern that gives rise to considerable concern about selective application 
of the law… It appears that the police and prosecuting authorities are 
simply arresting and detaining people as a form of harassment and 
persecution, without any reasonable prospect of successfully prosecuting 

The delegation called for an independent Director of Public Prosecution, as 
the current system left prosecution open to political influence.

It was also concerned that judges and magistrates appear to “exert very 
little control over the prosecution process”. Many in the judiciary were 
compromised as a result of having received farms, lavish gifts and houses. 
The judges had not received the title deeds, giving the “government an 
obvious source of patronage and pressure over them”.

“It clearly creates a conflict of interest,” the report said. – Dianne Hawker


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