By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has expressed concern over judicial officers who hand down controversially lenient sentences to rapists and armed robbers.
He said the judiciary needs to restore the public’s trust, faith and confidence in their work.
Mnangagwa said his office has received numerous complaints over ‘soft sentences passed for grievous crimes.’
Speaking while officially opening the inaugural Judicial Conference on Sentencing Guidelines currently underway in Kadoma, Mnangagwa decried light fines and short jail terms given to dangerous criminals such as rapists and armed robbers.
“Courts must mete out appropriate sentences in all instances…l make the remarks because of some disturbing reports reaching my office of some very lenient sentences imposed for serious and heinous offences, especially sexual crimes and armed robbery,” said Mnangagwa in a speech read on his behalf by Justice Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi.
“These have resulted in some groups and sections of society lobbying my office for minimum mandatory sentences for such offences.
“It is because they would have been dismayed and disappointed by the sentences imposed by the courts.”
The President said he hoped the proposed sentencing guidelines would ensure uniformity and consistency in handing down judgements for similar crimes at courts across the country.
“The development of sentencing guidelines is significant in the criminal justice system of our country and in our strategic trajectory as a nation, as it resonates with our drive and commitment to imposing access to justice for all.”
Mnangagwa said he expected the planned new measures would take into account all factors prescribed by the law to promote consistency in sentencing and increase the public’s trust, faith and confidence in the criminal justice system.
He emphasised sentences given by courts should not infuriate the public, but be within societal expectations.
“Sentences imposed by our courts must reflect the dynamics of what is taking place in our communities. It is important that there is a correlation between the criminal justice system and the reasonable expectations of society,” he added.
The primary role of the justice system was ensuring safety of citizens, Mnangagwa reiterated.
“The protection and promotion of public safety must be understood to be the primary purpose of the criminal justice system.
“Where violent crimes such as armed robbery and abuse of women and children are on the rise, the country’s abhorrence must be reflected in the punishment meted out on those found on the wrong side of the law.”
The President, however, warned against retributive justice resulting in indiscriminate jailing of offenders.
“Justice will not be served where there is an indiscriminate incarceration of offenders in circumstances in which imprisonment should be avoided.
“Zimbabwe, just like other democratic and modern States, must move away from the traditional approach to criminal punishment, which placed emphasis on retribution and deterrence, but move towards reforming and rehabilitating wrong doers.