Zim’s inquest system to be overhauled

ZIMBABWE’S inquest system which the country is currently relying on is inadequate to meet trends in the investigations of violent, unexpected, suspicious or unnatural deaths.

This emerged at the two-day Coroner’s Office Draft Bill stakeholders consultations meeting held at a local hotel where stakeholders were deliberating on the alignment of the legislation with the new provisions of the constitutions.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, whose speech was read on her behalf by the ministry’s chief law officer, Mr Charles Paul Manhiri, said because of the current system’s inadequacies, there was need for an overhaul through the introduction of the Coroner’s Office.

“It is with no doubt that forensic pathology services in Zimbabwe have been a challenge. I am sure with the setting up of a clearly defined Coroner’s Office, these concerns will soon be a thing of the past. It goes without saying that the inquest system which we currently rely on is inadequate to meet the current trends in the investigations of violent, unexpected, suspicious or unnatural deaths, hence the need to overhaul the complete system through the introduction of the Coroner’s Office,” she said.

Currently, Zimbabwe uses the inquest system as espoused in the Inquest Act (Chapter 7:07) which was operationalised in 1951.

The proposed system is expected to put to bed quandaries hospitals and prison and correctional services in the country have been facing in identifying corpses that would in the end receive paupers’ burials as well as address and improve critical aspects such as radiological services, pathology laboratory tests, toxicology testing and analysis.

In a sideline interview, director of Pathology in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Maxwell Hove, said: “The current legal framework is fragmented into various legislative instruments such as Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Inquest Act, Births and Deaths Registration Act and Exhumation Act, Burials and Cremation Act among others. The coroner will consolidate all these frameworks into one law for the purposes of justice and the whole system.”

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