Hearsay evidence (Zimbabwe)

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Hearsay evidence is testimony not of what the witness himself saw, heard or otherwise observed, but what he heard others say about the matter under investigation. The general rule is that hearsay evidence is not admissible to prove the truth of the matters stated. The reason for this is it is not the best evidence, in that the actual observer is not giving the evidence and therefore the credibility of his evidence cannot be tested by cross-examination. There is also the risk that a second hand report of what the actual observer said may be garbled or inaccurate.

There are many exceptions to the rule against hearsay and the relevant textbooks should be consulted if there is a dispute as to whether the case falls within a particular exception. Exceptions include statements made in the course of duty, dying declarations and statements made in the presence of accused. As regards statements made in the course of duty this is provided for in s 253 CPEA. The provision applies where the person who made the statement is dead or unfit to give evidence due to bodily injury or mental condition or he cannot, with reasonable diligence, be identified or found or brought to court and the person made the statement in the ordinary course of duty, contemporaneously with the facts stated and without motive to misrepresent.

See Hoffman & Zeffertt South African Law of Evidence 4th ed pp 623-649, "Hearsay Evidence in Outline" by W.A. Hope in 1961 R & N LJ 130.

See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual