Judegment Day At The High Court London

Judegment Day At The High Court London
Mengi v Hermitage: Libel Claim Successfully Defended

Sunday, 20 December 2009


An effective rule of law is a fundamental element of good governance. Claims to good governance status based on the existence of the rule of law are often rhetorical claims from governments propping up corrupt and abusive legal regimes. Such is the case in Tanzania where there is no effective rule of law and where the police and judicial administrations are filthy with corruption relying on bribery and extortion to supplement low incomes.

Whilst there is a growing awareness of corruption in Tanzania there are no effective mechanisms in place to address it. Corruption is a way of life, a culture, a means to an end. No matter how many anti corruption bureaus exist, if not administered objectively then sustainable political reform is by fear and favour rendered impossible.

Justice is bought and paid for in Tanzania particularly in the lower courts. Most abusive are the courts of Resident Magistrate. Here, magistrates abuse the law and supplement their salaries with frightening simplicity and impunity. Trial is always without jury and many defendants are sentenced to prison in abuse of law on charges not even contained in the penal code. Public prosecutors openly tout their services to defendants able to afford a ‘not guilty’ judgement on the day of trial and the penal code is mostly ignored and seldom understood. Resident magistrates sit on civil cases as well as criminal cases with an equal degree of corruption. Due process is continuously blocked by the refusal of corrupt court administrators to accept documents for filing and daily claims of ‘the court file is lost’ remains an effective way of keeping an innocent defendant in prison without hope of release.

State Attorneys assume their corrupt roles when powerful local interests need to be promoted through the criminal courts. In a survey commissioned by the Kenyan Division of Transparency International (July 2009) the Tanzanian police were ranked the second most corrupt institution in East Africa with a 62.2% bribery rate and the Tanzanian Judiciary achieving a 61.5 % bribery rating.

Law does not combat the root causes of corruption but it can, if administered objectively, form an effective deterrent. Until it does, the unheard are denied voices, the poor are further impoverished, the innocent denied justice and sustainable development rendered impossible. The police, particularly in the lower ranks know or care nothing of the penal code or the required procedures for arrest. Human rights are brutally denied on a daily basis resulting in people in prison for years for crimes they did not commit or know nothing about. The scope within the administrations of justice for the operation of simplistic but effective corruption resulting in the deprivation of human rights and freedoms is truly terrifying.

What is clear is, that the rhetoric coming out of Tanzania vis-à-vis good governance does not sit comfortably with the reality and any genuine commitment to substantive political reform is for the foreseeable future undermined by the absence of an objective rule of law.

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