The High Court of Zimbabwe ruled on Wednesday that corporal punishment is permissible and cannot be classified as assault and a criminal offence if the intent to discipline is proven.
Justice Munamato Mutevedzi made the ruling in a case in which Yeukai Graham Mutero was being accused of killing her 13-year-old son while trying to discipline him, NewsDay reported.
Mutero told the court that she had no intention to kill her son, Desmond Matsatsi, early this year while administering corporal punishment.
Mutevedzi ruled that corporal punishment was permissible in disciplining wayward children if proven that the intent is purely disciplinary. Mutevedzi ruled:
It is against the above background, that it becomes difficult to apportion any blame on the accused person. Taking the evidence and the circumstances of this case in their totality, our conclusion is that the accused assaulted the deceased in the normal course of parental discipline.
It was unfortunate that the bid for discipline resulted in the tragic consequences which may have been aided by the deceased’s own violent behaviour in the community.
The judge said evidence revealed that the deceased was a “sturdy boy who easily overpowered his mother when she wanted to assault him.” Mutevedzi added:
Had she not called for her brother’s assistance, she would not have been able to punish him. With those seemingly harmless weapons, the accused assaulted the deceased on the buttocks, back and thighs. Generally speaking an assault on those parts of the human anatomy is not commonly known to lead to fatalities.
The judge said the law says a parent or guardian has the authority to administer moderate corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes.
It follows, therefore, that in cases of murder resulting from corporal punishment administered by a parent or other authorised person, it is not enough for prosecution to simply allege assault.
He added that the state has to submit evidence which proves that Mutero acted beyond the bounds of moderation.
Mutevedzi said Mutero’s action was reasonable and there is no evidence to suggest that she intended to hurt or kill Desmond.
Mutero was accused of killing her son on January 20 this year after reports that he had joined Nyau dancers.
It is alleged that Mutero summoned her brother and they tied Desmond to a bed before she beat him up with a stick.
Desmond was found dead in bed the following morning leading to Mutero’s arrest.
Previous Corporal punishment Cases:
In 2017, the High Court nullified article 60(2) (c) of the Educational Act which allowed corporal punishment.
Section 68A of the Constitution outlaws corporal punishment in schools, any physical or psychological torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The law specifically bars teachers from beating schoolchildren in whatever circumstances.
In April 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that no male juvenile convicted of any offence could be sentenced to receive corporal punishment.
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