Con-Court outlaws hookers' arrests

HARARE - The Constitutional Court has outlawed the police’s dragnet operations targeting women soliciting for sex.

This followed an application filed by nine suspected prostitutes who challenged their arrest and prosecution, claiming their right to liberty had been infringed.

Following their arrest, the women had excepted to the charges, an application which was dismissed by the magistrates’ court, prompting the Constitutional Court application.

Prosecutor Tozivepi Mapfuwa did not oppose the request, resulting in an order being granted by consent.

“…the prosecution and remand of applicants on allegations of having solicited as defined in Section 81 (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on 17th March 2014 amount to a deprivation of their liberty as may be authorised by the law in contravention of Section 49 (1) (b) of the Constitution and are a denial of the fundamental right of the applicants to the protection of the law guaranteed under Section 56 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” deputy chief justice Luke Malaba said.

The women were accused of unlawfully soliciting for the purposes of prostitution.

In the application, the women had argued that the charges were too vague and did not disclose whom they solicited for the purpose of prostitution, adding that their rights had been violated.

“…for one to sustain a charge of solicitation it is incumbent that there be an allegation that an accused actually approached someone in public and by words or specific conduct seriously offered sexual services in exchange for money,” they argued.

They said where there was no proof of such acts; a charge would be improper and unsustainable.

Mapfuwa agreed to the women’s application, adding that the arrest was not justified and deprived them of their rights.

“The charge that the State intended to use in prosecuting the applicants lacked essential ingredients of the offence of soliciting….The charge was defective for want of averment that the solicitation was done publicly…,” Mapfuwa said.

Chipo Nyamanhindi, Selina Shoko, Colleter Chisedzi, Memory Muchena, Chipo Mwedziwendira, Tionesei Nyaude, Beuty Kaseke, Lorraine Marapira and Dorcas Linda were jointly charged with Charmaine Zvenyika and Yolanda Gwatidzo, who were not part of the Constitutional Court application.

They were represented by Tawanda Zhuwarara and David Hofisi, who were instructed by Gift Mtisi.

According to court papers, the women were arrested in Harare’s redlight area Avenues by officers carrying out a dragnet operation code-named “Operation no to robberies and prostitution”.

 

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