The funding promise was given by President Jakaya Kikwete at the Law Day gala in Dar es Salaam on Friday. The president's promise comes at the opportune moment when the Judicial System is, to say the least, desperate for funding.Apart from roping in new magistrates and judges, the Judicial System will also smooth down its operations, quickening handling of court cases. It is on record that court cases have piled up to the ceilings, especially in primary and district courts.
The president said: "The government will this year disburse all funds required by the courts. You know there are sectors that require trillions of shillings. Let such sectors wait a bit as we finance the judiciary that requires only billions." The motto of the Law Day on Friday was 'Alternative punishment and its benefits to society.' This is, indeed, an encouraging motto. If implemented properly, alternative punishment will help ease prison congestions which are now a critical problem.
President Kikwete enlightened the 'wananchi' in general that they should be ready to understand when courts of law impose alternative punishments on minor offenders. He said that people should accept the fact that not all criminals deserve harsh jail terms.Indeed, it would serve a useful purpose if anyone who commits a misdemeanor is ordered by a court to sweep a street, dig a trench or do other communal work. The punishment would embarrass the criminal but would at the same time allow them time to serve their families.
Alternative punishment (compared to jail term) also helps to reduce expenses on the government. The alternative punishment, however, is not all that the nation needs to decongest prisons, some of which are despicably overcrowded.
The Judicial System needs to respect the National Prosecutions Service Act, 2007, fully and see to it that arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, illegal prosecutions and unjustified imprisonments do not occur. This will help trim down prison congestions drastically.Some detention centres and prisons hold innocent civilians for months or years on end. The entire legal system should strive to uphold the rule of law through effective administration of criminal justice if it is to win back its tarnished reputation.
The system, which is currently not in the best graces of the wananchi, should be overhauled because it is rated as the most corrupt entity. It is widely blamed for miscarriage of justice and indulgence in bribe taking. Stooping this low is, indeed, shameful.
It would be remiss on our part not to mention here that Tanzanian prisons are hell-on-earth. A survey carried out last year showed that some prisons housed numbers of prisoners that exceeded the authorized capacity by far. For instance, the Dodoma Central Prison at Isanga, whose official capacity is 784 inmates had 1,338 which is 70.7 per cent above the authorized capacity. Maweni Prison in Tanga had 1,028 prisoners instead of 920.
Segerea Prison in Dar es Salaam had 1,878 prisoners while its capacity stands at 920. Keko Prison had 1,140 prisoners while the official capacity is 420. Prisoners are, invariably, tortured through hard labour and fed badly cooked food. They mostly sleep on hard cold floors.The current legal system gives a lot of room to 'cruel or greedy' police officers to arrest innocent civilians arbitrarily and dump them into detention centres with impunity. The system also turns a blind eye to affluent offenders who buy their freedom.
This being the case, the population of detainees in this country is nearly the same as that of prisoners. The Director of Public Prosecution should be aggressive enough to detect trumped up prosecutions and throw them out.At the moment, a lot of injustice is meted out on innocent civilians in primary courts. It is imperative, therefore, that advocates be allowed to help victims of arbitrary prosecutions in primary courts "where innocent civilians are subjected to a lot of injustice".