'Courts too hostile for doctors'

MUTARE - The absence of a coroner in the country has led to miscarriages in the justice delivery system as local medical professionals dread being grilled if they appear as witnesses in the country’s adversarial court battles, a legal seminar that was held here, revealed last week.

Director of pathological services in the ministry of Health’s, Maxwell Mareza Hove said the legal system’s failure to protect medical experts has kept locals from pursuing careers as forensic pathologists — something that leads to inefficiencies in securing justice.

“We don’t have a single local forensic pathologist because our legal system is adversarial. When you go to court you are going for a fight, it’s not a friendly environment for doctors who are not trained to fight like lawyers who would publicly defame them as much as possible to discredit them in order to win their cases,” Mareza Hove said.

Mareza Hove said currently the country is experiencing a lot of miscarriages of justice as coroners are hard to come by.

“There is a lot of miscarriage of justice going on presently. There are people who are being killed and nothing is being done because the system is not strong enough. Murderers are walking scot free!” he said.

Mureza Hove said since independence Zimbabwe has never had a single forensic pathologist and has been relying on experts from across the world.

“Since 1980, we have never had our own forensic pathologist … we have been relying on expatriates, educated as we are, from India, Tanzania, Nigeria and at the moment since 2004 we have been relying on Cubans,” Mareza Hove said.

However, Mareza Hove said the Cuban forensic experts are now being protected by their government after one of them was grilled during an inquest into the late general Solomon Mujuru’s death.

“After the inquest into . . . Mujuru’s death in which a Cuban forensic expert was grilled for a month the Cuban government has moved in to protect its citizens by demanding that they be cleared with their government before standing as witnesses in court . . . at times the clearance is never granted,” Mareza Hove said.

Speaking at the same seminar chief law officer in the ministry of Justice, Charles Paul Manhiri said they are moving to craft a Coroner Bill that seeks to create a better system.

“At the moment we are using the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Anatomic Donations and Post Mortem Examinations, the Inquest Act, the Birth and Death Registration Act and Burial and Cremations Act among others but the coroner’s bill seeks to create a better system,” Manhiri said.

“Because of the fragmentation of these acts the management of cases has been very difficult,” he said.

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