Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Prison is now for the poor: judge

Prison is now for the poor: judge

13/03/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

ONLY poor people are being sent to prison as the rich buy their freedom by 
bribing magistrates and prosecutors, a Bulawayo judge warns today.

Justice Martin Makonese says corruption is now out of hand in Zimbabwe’s 
lower courts where remuneration for the judicial officers is poor.

“It would appear that some prosecutors, magistrates, clerks and other court 
officials are routinely accepting bribes to throw away cases,” Makonese said 
while opening the Hwange Circuit Court.

“Some criminals even boast that you can never go to jail if you have money. 
What this means is that it is the poor who have no money who only end up 
doing jail time.”

The Magistrates’ Courts handle more than 85 percent of all criminal cases in 

Justice Makonese said he was concerned that lawyers were acting as conduits 
for the corrupt payments.
He said: “I would like to call upon legal practitioners to shun being used 
by their clients as couriers of bribe money.

“Legal practitioners who act as agents for the clients in these corrupt 
activities are just as equally guilty as the criminals they act for.

“There should be zero tolerance on corruption and any officer of the law 
caught on the wrong side of the law must be punished heavily to send a 
correct message to like-minded persons.”

Magistrates and prosecutors have embarked on strikes over the last two years 
seeking improved pay. Unions say Zimbabwe’s law officers are the lowest paid 
in the region – which makes it difficult for most to turn down bribes from 
well-heeled criminals.

Dozens of prosecutors have been arrested over the last two years and charged 
with corruption over the questionable release of criminals.

In February, the Justice Ministry announced that 60 magistrates were being 
transferred around the country as a means of fighting corruption.

A Masvingo magistrate is under investigation after he sentenced a cattle 
rustler to a wholly-suspended sentence of five months even as he admitted 
stealing six cattle. Stock theft carries a mandatory penalty of nine years 
in jail.

A prosecutor at Chivhu Magistrates’ Court was recently arrested after taking 
a bribe from a farmer who has a pending court case.
Detectives dressed in overalls approached the prosecutor and pretended to be 
farm workers sent by the farmer to pay a bribe.

While magistrates are poorly paid, by contrast High Court and Supreme Court 
judges are relatively well-paid with other perks including vehicles, houses 
and police guards.


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