Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi has blasted junior police officers for abusing the courts by using them as shields against pending internal disciplinary hearings.
Justice Mathonsi’s remarks follow an urgent chamber application filed by Nkululelo Magwala, a member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Support Unit, who sought an order blocking his superiors from convening a board of inquiry to determine his suitability to continue in his job.
Justice Mathonsi said the court cannot be a disciplinary authority for the police.
Magwala, who is stationed at Fairbridge Barracks, is facing charges of disorderly conduct. He allegedly bought five litres of fuel from an illegal fuel dealer in Cowdray Park suburb and later returned it claiming the petrol was mixed with diesel.
Magwala then allegedly confiscated a container with 30 litres of petrol from the dealer and demanded his money back without returning the five litres. The cop is also alleged to have destroyed the dealer’s bicycle.
He was convicted of contravening the Police Act.
Magwala was subsequently sentenced to seven days in prison at Fairbridge detention barracks.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, he appealed to the Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, but lost the case.
In papers before the court, Magwala cited Chihuri, Chief Superintendent Masina and Superintendents identified only as Misi and Makosi as the respondents.
Magwala was challenging the dismissal of his appeal by Chihuri which paved a way for the convening of a board of inquiry to determine his suitability to continue serving in the force.
Justice Mathonsi dismissed the application.
“This court is increasingly being inundated with urgent chamber applications being brought by police officers desperate to prevent disciplinary action. It would seem that officers in the Police Service are unwilling to subject themselves to the disciplinary authority of their superiors sitting as suitability board for whatever reason,” said the judge.
Justice Mathonsi said such applications were clogging the courts.
“For some reasons the officers believe they can shelter under the wings of this court against the imperatives of their transgressions.
“I think police officers must now be reminded that they are like any other employees and therefore subject to disciplinary action by their superiors,” he said.
Justice Mathonsi said the court will only step in where there has been a clear violation of a police officer’s rights as the Commissioner-General was empowered to convene a board to inquire into the suitability of police officers for as long as that was done lawfully.