Protection Order is an order given by a Magistrates Court of Zimbabwe or High Court or a chief's or headman's court (for cases of psychological, emotional, verbal or economic abuse only) against a person causing domestic violence in any of its forms, which is meant to ensure that such person does not continue to commit the violence. This may also order the person committing the violence to pay maintenance where there is economic abuse.
The Domestic Violence Act Chapter 5:16 provides protection and relief for victims of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Act was enacted in 2007 and to date has been one of the country’s most progressive pieces of legislation and has had the biggest impact on the justice delivery system. Section 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe especially, provides for the rights of women and protection of their dignity and worth as equal human beings in the society. Section 80(3) particularly outlaws laws, customs, traditions and cultural practices that infringe upon the rights and personal safety of women.
Protection Orders Section 7, are peace orders, which are specific to domestic violence. Where an act of domestic violence has been or is being committed or is threatened, an application for a protection order may be made to a court. The application is handled on an urgent basis and granted if there is sufficient reason to grant it and a warrant of arrest is issued simultaneously.
Who can apply for Protection Order
- The victim of domestic violence
- Any person allowed by a victim to apply for them
- Any person looking after a victim who is below the age of 18 years
- Any person acting to represent the victim, without the permission of the victim but with the court's permission
What protection is available before the Protection Order is given by the court
- The court has the power to give an interim Protection Order that protects the victim before the court date where it is satisfied that the perpetrator is committing an act of domestic violence or is likely to commit such an act.
- The Interim Protection Order shall be issued with a notice to the respondent to come to court on a date specified and show reasons why a protection order should be made.
- The clerk of court should assist the victim to serve the Interim Protection Order on the perpetrator through the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
How does one get a Protection Order
One has to make an application to the court and file it with the clerk or registrar of court. The clerk of court has a duty to advise the victim (in cases where the victim does not have a lawyer) of:
- Relief available in terms of the act
- The effect of any order given and how it will be enforced
- The right to report to the police and make a criminal complaint if a criminal offense has been committed
- The right to claim compensation for loss suffered or injury as a result of an act of domestic violence
What evidence will the court consider
- Written evidence which may include medical evidence based on a police report
- Oral evidence by the victim, the perpetrator and any witness
- Evidence by way of an affidavit
What can be provided in the Protection Order
- That the victim or perpetrator or other affected family member undergo counselling
- The perpetrator should stop committing an act of violence personally or through others
- That the perpetrator should stay away from a specified place, which may be where the victim lives
- That the perpetrator should not enter or approach the victim's place of work
- That the perpetrator should pay emergency maintenance for the victim's needs and those of child/dependent
Important facts about the Protection Order
- Protection Order (PO) is Valid for at least 5 years but may be cancelled of changed by a court
- Where one breaks a term of the PO, the victim or a representative of the victim may request any police officer to arrest the perpetrator
- Lying in an affidavit for a PO can lead to imprisonment of up to 2 years
- Repeated breach of a protection order results in an offence and liability to imprisonment for up to 5 years
- After both the victim and perpetrator have to come to court and the court is satisfied, that the perpetrator committed an act of domestic violence, and that protection is necessary. A warrant of arrest is attached to the PO and will be used if the perpetrator does not obey order.