Writes Marlvin Ngiza
The amendment of Section 193 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Chapter (9:07) which previously provided for the detention of people who are deaf or mute or both and did not provide sign language interpretation during court proceedings has been applauded with expressions that the development was going to necessitate access to justice for people who are hard of hearing.
Chapter 9:07 was repealed and substituted by “193” Detention of persons with hearing impairment or speech impairment or both which now states that in any criminal proceedings involving the accused with hearing impairment or speech impairment or both, the state shall ensure the availability of a sign language interpreter where the accused concerned requires the service of such interpreter.
The new law further provides that in any criminal proceedings, if the court is satisfied that the accused is unable to properly conduct his or her defence by reason of a hearing impairment or speech impairment or both,the court shall; order the release of the accused person on bail or order the removal of the accused person from remand where the state has failed to ensure the availability of the sign language interpreter.
Also, where the court has ordered the removal of the accused from remand in terms of subsection (2)(b), the state may recall the accused by way of summons to appear before the court once the service of the sign language interpreter has been secured.
In response to the development, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) welcomed and applauded the new legal provisions saying that it was a milestone for the disability constituency and was going to ensure equal justice accessibility and inclusivity for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.
“Deaf Zimbabwe Trust welcomes the repeal of regressive provisions in Section 193 (“Detention of persons who are deaf or mute or both”) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07). Deaf Zimbabwe Trust believes that these new legal provisions will ensure that persons who are deaf and hard of hearing will have access to equal and inclusive justice as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The new law ushers in a new era for access to justice for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing” said DZT.
The outcome appeared to be the fruit of several organisations’ advocacy for an inclusive justice system in the country.
In 2020, DZT together with the Legal Resources Foundation, lodged a High Court application challenging the constitutionality of the repealed provision.
The new law was announced through an Extraordinary Gazette published in General Notice 164 of 2023.