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Arrest of a U.S. Citizen
March 28, 2020

If you are arrested, you should request to speak with the American Embassy in Harare immediately.  The phone number is 0867-701-1000 from a Zimbabwean mobile phone, or +263-867-701-1000 when dialing from the United States.  This number is manned 24 hours/day, and the receptionist will put you or local authorities in contact with the Embassy staff.  If you cannot reach the Embassy, try to contact someone locally who can.


The Zimbabwean legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law and has been influenced by the South African system. A nine -member Constitutional Court (CC), headed by the Chief Justice, is the highest court and has original jurisdiction over alleged violations of fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution. The Supreme Court (SC) of Appeals is subordinate to the CC and has appellate jurisdiction over other matters raised from subordinate courts. The High Court consists of general and appellate divisions for both criminal and civil cases. The Administrative and Labor Courts also have superior jurisdiction in the two fields. Below the High Court are magistrate’s courts also with both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Accused persons are initially tried in the magistrate’s courts and later appealed to the higher courts. All judges are appointed by the President in consultation with a Judicial Services Commission which he also appoints.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is a constitutional body whose sole mandate is to prosecute persons suspected and accused of crime by the state. Constitutionally, the NPA enjoys some degree of autonomy from all other government departments in its decision-making processes on whether to pursue a case or not.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has the mandate to maintain law and order in the country. It is the most visible law enforcement arm of state because it interacts directly with civilian citizens, residents and visitors. Officers of ZRP are permitted by law to arrest persons ‘reasonably’ suspected to have committed crimes but must themselves comply with the law. Other specialized law enforcement agencies have limited powers to arrest and detain suspects – the clearest example is Immigration officers who are empowered by law to detain suspects relating to immigration issues.

In 1992 the Customary Law and Local Courts Act established a unitary court system made up of headmen’s courts, chiefs’ courts, magisterial courts, the High Court, and the Supreme Court. Under this system, customary law cases can be appealed through all levels to the Supreme Court.

Stage 1: Arrest

Any person in Zimbabwe is subject to arrest if the authorities have a reasonable suspicion of that person’s involvement in criminal activities. At this stage, such person is merely a suspect. The law requires that authorities inform the suspect of the reason of arrest at the time of arrest. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is the main body of law outlining what conduct is criminal.

Stage 2: At the Police Station

The authorities can only lawfully detain a suspect in designated places, usually police stations. Officers manning the detention facility must properly record the name, address, age and other personal details of a suspect in a police log book.

A suspect in police custody is entitled by law to contact a family member, a legal practitioner or other person of his/her choice to notify them of his place of detention and reason thereof at the state’s expense. Access to a doctor or lawyer is permitted on condition the suspect pays the cost of such consultation.

The law provides that any person who is arrested or detained in Zimbabwe for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court or for an alleged offence and is not released, must be brought before a court as soon as possible and in any event not later than 48 hours after the arrest took place or the detention began, whether or not the period ends on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday. Any person who is not brought to court within the 48-hour period must be released immediately unless their detention has previously been extended by a competent court.

A detained suspect who can afford a lawyer at his own expense must inform the lawyer of how the detention was handled during their first visit from the lawyer.

Although the embassy cannot recommend an attorney, it does maintain a list of attorneys who have expressed an interest in working with U.S. citizens on the embassy website.

Stage 3: Going to court

After the initial detention period, if the authorities decide to continue with prosecution, the detainee will appear in court for his or her initial court appearance no later than 48-hours after the initial detention. However, in some cases authorities may request more time to investigate charges before the initial court appearance. During the initial court appearance, the detainee will present an application for bail which the magistrate will consider before requesting the detainee to enter a plea. If the bail application is refused, the lawyers can petition for bail in the High Court.

The Zimbabwean law provides that at the first court appearance after being arrested a detainee must be charged or be informed of the reason why their detention should continue or, be released. At that pre-liminary court appearance, the judge can dismiss the case, convict the arrestee, allow bail, or decide to continue with a full trial without bail. If the subject pleads guilty to the offense, the magistrate will determine sentencing within a few days. If the subject enters a plea of “not guilty”, the case will go to trial. If further bail applications are rejected, the subject will remain in prison for the duration of the trial. The courts in Zimbabwe are backlogged with cases, and prisoners may remain incarcerated for months, even years, awaiting trial. Upon termination of the court case, if convicted, the prisoner will be detained in a long-term prison.

Any person who is detained, including a sentenced prisoner has a right to communicate with and be visited by a spouse or partner, chosen religious counsellor, their chosen legal practitioner or their chosen medical practitioner.

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is being detained illegally or if it is not possible to ascertain the whereabouts of a detained person, any person may approach the High Court for an order requiring the detained person to be released, or to be brought before the court for the lawfulness of the detention to be justified, or requiring the whereabouts of the detained person to be disclosed.

The U.S. Embassy in Harare assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms.  Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.


13th Floor
Old Mutual Centre
11 3rd Street
P.O. Box 3920
Tel: 263-024-2252782/3
Fax: 263-024-2736300
Only advocate on cases referred by other Law firms.
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

7th Floor
Mercury House
24 G. Silundika Ave
P.O. Box 2625
Tel: 263-024-2704244/2794994
Fax: 263-024-2705180/2794998
E-mail: praetor@africaonline.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

18 Weale Road
Milton Park
Tel: 263-024-2708595/6 or 0712 200 210
Fax: 263-024-2708595/6
E-mail: cmplaw@cmplaw.co.zw
Family/Civil/Business Law

3rd Floor Executive Chambers
16 G. Silundika Ave
P.O. Box 53/2093
Tel: 263-024-2794930
Fax: 263-024-2756268
E-mail: email@cwg.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

6th Floor, Gold Bridge Eastgate
Second Street
P.O. Box CR36
Tel: 263-024-2780351-2
Fax: 263-024-2780350
E-mail: admin@dmh.co.zw
Website: www.dmh.co.zw
Business Law

6th & 7th Floors
Beverly Court
Nelson Mandela/4th Street
P.O. Box 235
Tel: 263-024-2705528/29/30/34/36
Fax: 263-024-2707380/707388
Email: ggg@ggg.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

6th Floor, Beverly Court
100 N. Mandela Ave
P.O. Box 200
Tel: 263-24-2706981/88/9
Fax: 263-24-2707124/5
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

200 Herbert Chitepo Avenue
P.O. Box 85
Tel: 263-24-2735280/6 or 2732388 or 2732398
Fax: 263-24-2790013 or 2792537
E-mail: admin@honeyb.co.zw
Family/Business Law

Baronage House
24 Lanark Road
P.O. Box UA429
Belgravia, Harare
Tel: 263-024-2250994/5 2253942
E-mail: brendak@bwkahari.com
Fax: 263-024-2792900
Family/Civil/Business Law

MacDonald House
10 Selous Avenue
P.O. Box 19
Tel: 263-024-2793626-9
Fax: 263-024-2704436
E-mail: tandi@kantorimmerman.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

Cabs Centre
74 Jason Moyo Ave
P.O. Box 188/631
Tel: 263-024-2702561
Fax: 263-024-2702569
E-mail: scanlen@mweb.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

2nd Floor
Tanganyika House
Union Avenue/3rd St
P.O. Box 3188
Tel: 263-024-27064158
Cell: 0772-300-300
Fax: 263-024-2733270
E-mail: samukange@yahoo.com
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

Beverley Corner
11 Selous Avenue
P.O. Box 452
Tel: 263-024-2250113/2250129
Fax: 263-024-2727353/2733270
E-mail: winton@africaonline.co.zw
Family/Criminal/Civil/Business Law

Beverly Cornerhttp://lawsociety.org.zw/
100 Nelson Mandela
P.O. Box CY 1393
Tel: 263-024-2708118/2705370
Human Rights/Family/Civil Law

For a comprehensive list of lawyers in Zimbabwe, please refer to the Law Society of Zimbabwe Lawyers directory on http://lawsociety.org.zw/directory.

– Updated 05 February 2020