We at Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights are concerned with the decision by Victoria Falls Magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje to prosecute 19 years old Edmore Sibanda, who was accused of impregnating a 14 years old girl, to 310 hours of community service at Baobab Primary School;
- Our concern is on the fundamental need to protect the rights of the students that are enrolled at Baobab Primary School;
- We feel very strongly that the magistrate erred in sending Sibanda to a primary school considering that he has committed an offence of indulging sexually with a minor and the primary school is a place of habitant for minors, of which some of them especially grades 6s and 7s are at the age of 13 – 14years like Sibanda’s victim and have reached puberty stage and may be prey to Sibanda’s sexual desires;
- Whilst acknowledging that Sibanda did not forcible rape the complainant in this case but he proposed to her (and in this case the complainant is not at the age of making informed decisions and thus could have been cheated into the relationship by Sibanda), he (Sibanda) is capable of identifying another unsuspecting girl again in this primary school and cheat her into a sexual relationship with.
- It is therefore in that light that we call on the Magistrate to uphold the interest of the children at Baobab Primary School, protect their rights especially the right to personal security as enshrined in Section 52 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, by removing Sibanda from Baobab Primary School and placing him somewhere else;
- We call on the High Court of Zimbabwe which is mandated by Section 81 subsection 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to be the ‘upper guardian’ of the protection of the rights of the children in Zimbabwe to instruct the Victoria Falls Magistrate to send Sibanda to some other place not a school.
- Furthermore, we call on the Judicial Services Commission of Zimbabwe and the Chief Magistrate to weigh in on the matter and especially on the broad issue of community services at schools as we have noted with great concern the tendency by magistrates to send sex offenders and people charged with criminal sexual crimes to do community service in schools.
- We also call on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to act on this matter and ensure that the rights of the innocent children at Baobab are protected and promoted. The Commission should further investigate the tendency by Magistrates Courts to send sexual offenders for community services in schools and this should be addressed as it violates the rights of students.