Harare, March 24, 2015 – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has condemned the militarisation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and implored Parliament to probe the deployment of state security agents to carry out civilian duties.
ZLHR on Tuesday castigated the presence of police and military personnel within the ranks of the NPA which is tasked with instituting and undertaking criminal prosecutions.
The reprimand by ZLHR came after local media confirmed and exposed the presence of military personnel within the NPA in an article in which Deputy Prosecutor-General Florence Ziyambi was allegedly physically manhandled by Colonel Solomon Siziba, who is an administrator on secondment to the NPA.
According to a NewsDay newspaper report published early this week, Siziba assaulted Ziyambi at the NPA’s offices at the New Government Complex in Harare last month under some unclear circumstances forcing Ziyambi to file assault and indecent assault charges at Harare Central Police Station against the soldier.
In a statement released Tuesday, ZLHR castigated Siziba’s actions which it said were regrettable as this happened at a time when Zimbabwe is pushing for a society that is free from violence against women, both in the private and public spheres.
“What is of further and grave concern are the disturbing revelations and confirmation of the extent of militarisation of the NPA contained in the police complaint Ziyambi reportedly filed at Harare Central Police Station……..ZLHR expresses its deep concern about the presence of members of the Zimbabwe National Army within the NPA, and at such high levels in the institution.
The human rights organisation questioned the rationale behind seconding senior military personnel to serve in the NPA which is a civilian authority when the Constitution clearly states in Section 213 (2) (c) that the defence forces may only be deployed in support of other civilian authorities in the event of an emergency or disaster. ZLHR said it was baffling that authorities were deploying soldiers and police officers to the NPA when the country doesn’t have a shortage of highly qualified legal personnel who could take up such positions in the NPA.
“Such “secondments” clearly undermine the independence of the NPA. The NPA is not able to carry out its duties impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias in accordance with section 194 (d) of the Constitution, without clear institutional independence from the Zimbabwe National Army. Without strict institutional separation, military factions may intimidate and exert pressure on the NPA to take up or disregard certain prosecutions that would be favourable or unfavourable to their interests, when the NPA should be guided only by objective principles that would protect citizens and treat all fairly and equally. It is also not clear as to who soldiers on secondment answer to, and to whom they bear allegiance,” ZLHR said.
The lawyers grouping urged the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs to urgently investigate the practice of seconding police and military officials to the NPA including summoning the NPA Board, the Prosecutor General, and the relevant military officials to explain such a situation.
Already, the deployment of police and soldiers to serve as prosecutors and law officers in the NPA is being challenged in the Constitutional Court by the Zimbabwe Law Officers’ Association (ZILOA). In its application, ZILOA argues that the use of police officers as prosecutors in the country’s courts is a threat to the fair trial rights of accused persons and hence the NPA and the Prosecutor-General (PG) Johannes Tomana should disengage all members of the security services within its ranks. ZILOA also argues that the independence and impartiality of the army and police officers was not guaranteed.
According to ZILOA, 137 security officials are currently employed as public prosecutors around the country’s provinces