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Journal of the South African Society of Archivists

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Admissibility of digital records as evidence in Bulawayo High Court in Zimbabwe

Patience Hunie, Peterson Dewah

Abstract


Evidence plays an important role in the administration of justice and the protection of citizens’ rights. Without evidence, cases may be delayed, thereby denying justice and this consequently infringes on the rights of the individual. This qualitative study collected data through questionnaires, interviews and content analysis to investigate the admissibility of digital records as evidence in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo High Court. The study focused on establishing how digital records are admissible as evidence in courts of law, taking into consideration that they are subject to manipulation, tampering, deletion and alteration, among other challenges. The population and sample included court officials such as the judge, prosecutors and lawyers as they are custodians of the law. Findings revealed that digital records were admissible as evidence although the focus at the moment was on audio-visual records. Acts relating to the issue of evidence were enacted years ago when technology was still far off. There were also no policies in place for the use of digital records as evidence. The National Archives Act of Zimbabwe (1986) does not adequately cater for the management of digital records generated within the public sector of Zimbabwe. The other finding was that there were no guidelines on the authentication of digital records. In view of the results, the study recommended that laws of evidence be amended to incorporate all forms of digital records as evidence in courts of law in a bid to guide legal practitioners.



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