The wheels of justice - Zimbabwe style

By Daniel Howden

Zimbabweans have given a new twist to the notion of taking justice into your own hands as victims of crime have been forced to drive the accused to court.

The move owes nothing to trendy ideas of perpetrators facing up to their crimes and everything to a shortage of fuel at the prison service.

After repeated delays at a number of trials in the capital Harare, the public were invited to use their own vehicles to ferry prisoners from remand centres to the courts.

"All our vehicles are off the road," said Chief Prison Officer Priscilla Mtembo. "We are actually failing to service courts in Harare but we are attending to the problem."

One robbery victim told the paper that he had driven the accused, with prison officers, to court and would ferry them back again after the hearing.

"I was tired of coming to court and being told the same story that the court had to postpone the matter because the accused persons were not brought to court," he said.

The lack of resources in the prison service is a reminder of the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe which has been undergoing a fragile recovery in the past year.

A decade-long descent into economic oblivion and chronic underinvestment in public services has left the country's infrastructure in a squalid state.

About 1000 prisoners, many of them living in overcrowded, filthy cells, died in the first six months of 2009. But since Medecins Sans Frontieres began to work in Zimbabwean prisons in February last year, conditions have markedly improved.

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- NZ Herald

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