23 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Magistrates Face Corruption Probe

SEVERAL magistrates face dismissal after the Judicial Service Commission unearthed massive corruption and cases of misconduct during ongoing investigations. At least two of them have since appeared in court this month charged with criminal abuse of office.

Sources said five others - three of them from Mashonaland Central - are set to appear before an inquiry by chief magistrate Mr Mishrod Guvamombe for various offences.

The cases were discovered during the ongoing monitoring and supervision exercise involving visits by Mr Guvamombe's team to the country's provinces inspecting records at the courts.

Those charged with criminal abuse of office were Augustine Borerwe of Bindura Magistrates' Court and Stephen Mavuna of Kezi.

The two have also appeared before the chief magistrate's inquiry and now await appearance before a disciplinary hearing to be set up by the JSC head office.

Offences unearthed by the visits include corruptly releasing prisoners, letting prisoners go without following proper procedures and failure to send court records for review, appeal and scrutiny.

JSC secretary Justice Rita Makarau yesterday said intensive supervision was the commission's thrust to ensure high standards of professionalism.

"We are a new employer. That is our thrust as JSC. We have intensified supervision on magistrates," she said.

"We are surely on the ground and as we visit the provinces, irregularities are discovered and magistrates, where necessary, are being charged.

"Depending with the gravity of the offences, some are discharged while others are fined or reprimanded. Those convicted for corruption related charges face dismissal.

"There other rare cases of mere incompetence, which attract lighter penalties."

Justice Makarau said Mr Guvamo-mbe was in Mashonaland West yesterday as part of the supervisory strategy.

"As we speak, Mr Guvamombe is in Chinhoyi as part of the ongoing supervision exercise," she said.

Borerwe (43) last Friday appeared before Harare regional magistrate Mr Hosea Mujaya for allegedly releasing eight convicts on bail pending appeal when they had not filed any appeals at the High Court.

He allegedly committed the offence between 2009 and 2011 while still stationed at Guruve Magistrates' Court.

Mr Mujaya released Borerwe on US$100 bail and he will be back in court next week. Mavuna (30) of Kezi was arraigned before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Tawanda Muchemwa for allegedly causing the disappearance of court records, which were meant for review and scrutiny.

He allegedly committed the offences between 2009 and this year when he was still stationed at Plumtree Magistrates' Court.

Mavuna allegedly imposed sentences that required records to be sent to a higher court for scrutiny and review at the High Court.

It is the State's case that Mavuna failed to submit the records of proceedings and kept them in his office, leading to their disappearance.

Sources say the discovery of such cases was also necessitated by the recent reshuffle of some 60 magistrates countrywide.

"When the magistrates were transferred, those entering new offices would discover the anomalies before informing the superiors," said the sources.

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