By Dr Masimba Mavaza
The Government must approve a legislation, which will provide for the tagging of murderers and sex offenders who are being returned to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom.
The monitoring and tagging would apply to offenders considered to be high risk. There are those who present a risk to the public. As shown by some who have been successfully deported from the UK Zimbabwe must consider the safety of its citizens and put in place measures to protect them.
One of the deportees from the UK posted a video boasting that he only killed one person yet the British have killed many. His boasting showed that he will re offend. The lessons from different international contexts should be carefully considered if the Government is to avoid an expensive folly.
In the UK where these criminals are coming from murderers are supervised and forced to meet with probation officers Zimbabwe must adopt the same system where murderers are monitored for a decade.
The ministry of Justice must work on legislation to authorise the monitoring of these criminals being deported if their cases are so gross as to pose danger to the Zimbabwean public.
Murderers who are released back into the community could be strictly monitored for up to a decade. Those who had been given life in prison the so-called ‘lifers’ are supervised and forced to attend regular meetings with probation officers when they are freed on licence after completing their minimum tariff or sentence in jail.
In safeguarding the people Zimbabwe must monitor these deportees with murder and rape convictions. But after just four years they can apply to the minister to have their monitoring suspended if they can show they are behaving out of prison. The stubbornness shown by one of the deportees who killed his wife and chopped her into pieces is a clear warning sign that he will surely do it if he is not controlled in one way or the other.
This means they do not have to check in with the authorities and are only recalled before the courts or sent back to jail if they breach the conditions by committing an offence.
We must realise that protecting society is the main objective of any government.
The way we deal with those who break the law is fundamental to the health of our society.
Making sure that those who commit crime are punished helps to build a fair society which protects and rewards the law-abiding citizen. This then must stretch on how to deal with those who have served their prison terms but still pose clear and present danger.
It also allows us to live in a society based on the rule of law, where other forms of revenge or retribution are outlawed and unnecessary, and it complements our efforts to prevent crime in the first place.
Keeping the public safe is the first duty of the government and our Criminal Justice System. We must do all we can to protect the public from serious, violent and dangerous offenders. This means using prison better, reserving it for more serious offenders but keeping the most dangerous in prison or in case of these coming from England monitoring them for longer.
But although punishment and imprisonment are necessary to protect the public and serve justice, we must do more. As well as needing offenders to be punished, a healthy and safe society needs them to be given every opportunity to reform – to get back onto the straight and narrow and become constructive contributors to the good of society as a whole.
So the deportees must not just be accepted without a thorough background check. This is not just because it is morally right to enable people to change their lives for the better and overcome their failures and mistakes. It is also a practical recognition that more than half of all crime is currently committed by people who have been through the system and have not yet changed their behaviour.
The video sent by one deportee who killed his wife and still sees that as a lighter crime. With no shame he boasts and said “I only killed one”. If no action is taken we will have blood flowing in the streets of our towns with little vampires walk with their hands dripping of blood of the innocent souls which will have been murdered. It is the duty of our government to put a law which must protect our people. Monitoring these criminals will help in Reducing re-offending and make Zimbabwe safer.
This strategy sets out how we will reshape our system to make sure that time in the criminal justice system is as effective as it can be in turning lives around and stopping people offending again, rather than serving as a brief interlude in a criminal career.
Amongst deportees there are child rapists. Some have rapped minors and infecting them with STI. We must have a strategy of protecting the public and punish offenders, but at the same time tackle the linked factors that make them more likely to commit crime again. That necessarily involves ever closer joint working with a wide range of partners beyond the criminal justice system.
Zimbabwe needs to have the criminal records disclosed as a condition of accepting the deportees home.
Taken seriously this law will transform the way we punish and manage offenders, reduce re-offending, and cut crime. It will support the law-abiding citizen and the rule of law, and make our country safe.
Crime will down, and at the same time we will succeed in catching more criminals. This legislation if accepted will extend to those offenders who are not the deportees. It should be noted that more than half of all crime is committed by people who have been through the criminal justice system before. We need our prison and justice system to work far better – and with a wider range of partners – to cut re-offending.
We must keep the public safe from violent and dangerous people who just think that one murder and mutilation is not a serious crime. We need to make sure that we are keeping the right people in prison, and that dangerous people are imprisoned for as long as necessary; that we are protecting the public effectively; and that our prisons are fit
for purpose. So our murderers from the Uk must be rehabilitated.
Some offenders who have been returned to Zimbabwe did not re offend in Zimbabwe because they were afraid of being deported. Now that they are deported there is no reason for them not to reoffend. There is no motivation to stay safe and free.
There must be indeterminate sentence for public protection, which means that seriously dangerous offenders will not be released until the minister of Justice or his team assess that it is safe to do so.
There should be a continuous improvement in the way offenders are supervised in the community, with better management of risk and offender managers working jointly with police, the Prison Service and others to supervise dangerous offenders from the UK armed with Changani bags.
It is important that offenders are properly punished for their crimes. Some very minor offenders can be processed swiftly, fairly and effectively without being monitored.
So the law must be made to manage offenders through monitoring to stop them re-offending. Whether offenders are in prison or in the community, we need to manage them better to stop them re-offending.
We need to offer them the chance to change, and address the multiple problems that many of the most persistent offenders face. This is the central aim of our legislation because it is key to reducing crime and keep the peace in our society.
If budget allows offenders details must be kept in a register. The minister will appoint a manager for every offender, who will be responsible for making sure that they are both punished and rehabilitated properly; and who will get involved as early as possible in managing the offender.
As we put more focus on the individual offender – looking at the risk they pose, and at the support and challenge they need to stop re- offending – we need to make sure that the way our system is designed helps us bring in the best possible people and organisations to support every offender and protect our country.
This is not to make the deportees suffer double jeopardy but to make sure that they are fully rehabilitated before they are unleashed into our society.
For some convicted deported criminals, punishment doesn’t end when they walk through Robert Mugabe airport. This monitoring should start when they step out of the plane.