Zimbabwe: Progress Report - Litigation for Victims of January 2019 Violence

26 January 2021
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Notices of Intention to Sue

The Forum managed to draft and serve the responsible perpetrators with 120 (One hundred and twenty) notices of intention to sue for various claims due to January 2019 violence. These claims were mainly for shock, pain, suffering, loss of patrimonial property and contumelia.

These notices were served mainly to the Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans Affairs, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and the Commissioner-General of Police, in their official capacity for vicarious liability of the actions of security officers that perpetrated violence on the victims.

Cases that have not progressed to court action.

Although the Forum received instructions to institute legal proceedings for civil suit on the aforesaid 120 cases hence the notices of intention to sue, 38 (thirty-eight) of these cases are still at that stage for various reasons. In some of the cases, clients are no longer reachable on the contact details provided to us for us to obtain more details in proceeding to the next level for litigation, some are no longer wiling to pursue the matter, whilst others do not have medical affidavits for us to prove sustained injuries.

Court action

The Forum managed to institute civil proceedings for 82 (eighty-two) cases of these victims in the High Court and all these matters are different stages. Sixty-two (62) are now at an advanced stage for hearing and the Forum is expecting to set these matters down for hearing soon after the lockdown. It follows that we have not yet managed to secure an award of any judgment for all these cases since all these matters are still at pleadings stages.

Interlocutory applications which were successfully opposed

In these matters that the Forum litigated on, the Defendants' lawyers raised various interlocutory applications to delay progression of these cases. These are the interlocutory pleadings that were raised by the Defendants:

Exceptions and special pleas on 46 matters - They raised exceptions on the grounds that the victims failed to identify the security officers who wronged them and special pleas on the grounds we have served them with summons without serving them with notices of intention to sue. We opposed these exceptions and special pleas and exchange pleadings until the matter was ready for hearing.

Interlocutory application for condonation of late filing of their exceptions and special pleas. The above exceptions and special pleas were raised out time and we opposed them on that ground. The Defendants then filed an application for condonation which we also opposed and exchange papers until the matter was ripe for hearing. The High Court then dismissed their application for condonation for late filing of these exceptions and special pleas.

Another interlocutory application for late filing of exceptions and special plea was also filed on 11 matters. We also opposed this application and court papers were exchanged until the matter was ripe for hearing. This application was later dumped after the dismissal of the above articulated application.

Obstacles in achieving justice to the victims

As already indicated above, civil matters take time until the matter is completed with Defendants using every avenue in the court rules in delaying progression of cases to frustrate the victims.

Some victims experienced violence by the security officers more than once as a result they lose hope and interest to litigate on these cases. These victims realized that the government does not pay any compensation to the victims of security forces violence even in cases where the victims successfully obtained an award from the court for compensation.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

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