Saturday, 3 September 2011

Justice delayed in Zambia

Today's headline of the day: "Prisoners demand sentencing". Prisoners in Zambia are petitioning the Attorney General to get their cases expedited so that they can be sentenced. These prisoners have been through trial and been convicted. The courts convicting them, however, were not empowered to pass the required minimum sentences. So they were transferred to the High Court. Where they have waited, some of them for close to eight years. Years and years in limbo, waiting for things to get done.

A lot people think the problem in Africa is corruption, with all the associated intrigue and Hollywood-movie hype. Unmarked, armoured cars, black-clad, sunglasses wearing bodyguards and people disappearing in the middle of the night. That happens. But more often, for most people on the continent, the problem is plain old inefficiency. A foster care grant application two years to be processed. The home affairs department can't manage the workload of processing work permits while people miss out on jobs. Or in this case, a justice system that takes years to hand down sentences. Inefficiency is much harder to generate public outrage over, to get media to care about, than outright corruption but it affects more people, more often and it appears to be a whole lot harder to resolve.

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