CHIEFJustice Godfrey Chidyausiku on Thursday said Zimbabwe’s holding cells “were unfit to be used by fellow Zimbabweans”
Chidyausiku made the damning assessment while addressing 554 police recruits in Harare.
He said his bench is seriously concerned with the state of most holding cells adding most of them were “inhuman and degrading”.
“We should bear in mind that the people we hold in police holding cells are Zimbabweans. We owe it to our people to afford them this decency,” Chidyausiku told the pass-out parade.
“The Constitutional Court has held that detaining suspects in these cells is a violation of their constitutional right,” he said.
Chidyausiku’s comments come after the Supreme Court ordered Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to renovate Matapi holding cells as they were “inhuman and exposed the suspects to various contagious diseases”.
Chidyausiku said he was aware that the government was broke but this should not be an excuse to fail to uphold its obligations to citizens.
“This does not require a lot of money and would evidence the government’s commitment to attend to this problem,” he said.
According to human rights activists, in some police holding cells, there are no blankets, suspects sleep on the floor and in some cases there are no ablution facilities.
In one of the cases brought before the Supreme Court, the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) group alleged that they were made to sleep on the floor and were not given sanitary facilities depriving them of their dignity.
Turning to the conduct of police officers when investigating cases, Chidyausiku said they should not expect laughter from the courts if they do a shoddy job.
“There should never be an expectation that because a person has been arrested and prosecuted, he should be convicted,” he said.
“Judicial officers will not hesitate to hold to account the police and the National Prosecuting Authority for failure to discharge their duties properly and professionally.
“There should never be collusion between these three arms of state involved in the delivery of justice.
“An efficient investigation by the police enables the judiciary to make a proper assessment of the evidence and deliver a verdict based on the evidence at law.”