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Courts must warn against persecution disguised as prosecution – Mtetwa
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
May 31, 2013

The award-winning human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa has called on the courts as the custodians of justice to warn people who abuse the legal system and state institutions in settling scores with perceived opponents as the ZimRights trial entered its third day at the Magistrate Court yesterday.

Mtetwa made these remarks on Thursday May 30, when she applied to have her client Okay Machisa, the ZimRights Director, removed from defense after state closed its case in the matter that had been precipitated by a raid at the ZimRights Headquarters in Harare in December 2012.

“If the court does not give stern warning of the consequences of persecution disguised a prosecution, public confidence on our justice system will be eroded,” the prominent lawyer said.

Mtetwa narrated how her client had been detained, a High Court order for his released ignored and how the investigating officer, Detective Assistant Inspector Mirimbo “vigorously opposed” bail on the contrived basis that Machisa was the: kingpin of the criminal gang” and wanted the UN to declare a ‘no-fly zone’ over Zimbabwe.

Mtetwa pointed out that Mirimbo contradicted his earlier vehemence, confessing he had no evidence against the accused on appearing before the Magistrate Court on Wednesday May 29. She therefore implored the court in its ruling to comment on how “the justice delivery system is on trial”.

She added: “I respectfully submit your worship that this trauma of the accused should be brought to a quick end without him being further traumatized.”

The matter was heard before Magistrate Donald Ndirowei and prosecuted by Mr. Chinhetse.

Patrick Nyambiya, a senior officer at the Immigration office testified and was cross-examined by the defense counsel and being the last of the six witnesses, the state closed its case.

All defense lawyers for the six accused indicated that they were applying for discharge of heir clients. They asked the court to maintain a verdict of not guilty, contending that none of the six witnesses gave evidence linking the six persons on the dock to the supposed crime.

Selby Hwacha, who is representing the civil society corporate ZimRights, concurred with Mtetwa that the state needed to comment on the way the justice system was being manipulated and used for malicious purposes against innocent citizens.

Hwacha said it was clear as outlined by Mtetwa, that the two investigating officers, Assistant Inspector Mirimbo and Detective Inspector Murira, had exonerated the six accused including his client under oath through confessions that they did not have evidence against them on Wednesday. The ZimRights Treasurer Nunurai Jena represented the organisation in court.

Trust Maanda, the legal representative for the other two ZimRights officials, Education Programs Officer Leo Chamahwinya and Highfields local chapter Chairperson Dorcas Shereni said the state’s case was “unlawful because it hoped that the accused would implicate each other”.

Maanda charged that the attorney general’s office had done a shoddy job, hoped the accused would be put to their defense, so that they “kick themselves and fall bolstering the state’s case” without giving any evidence against them.

Maanda said Section 50(9) of the new Constitution was clear about the rights of arrested and detained persons. The Chapter 4, which is the Declaration of Rights, came into effect when the President assented to the new Constitution (Amendment Bill 20 of the Lancaster House Constitution) on May 22.

The trial was postponed to June 14.

Meanwhile…

Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have been arraigned before the courts over alleged voter education as the blitzkrieg on NGOs, bolstered by two consecutive ZANU-PF annual conference resolution (in Bulawayo in 2011 and Gweru in 2012) against the civil society encroaches into this year’s harmonized election period.

In Bulawayo, last week Governor Cain Mathema threatened Bulawayo Agenda (BA), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) - the organisation which ostensibly recorded casualties of the infamous Gukurahundi massacres - and Radio Dialogue Fm with non-renewal of licences because they were “spy organisations… funded by the US intelligence and the British”.

Masvingo Governor Titus Maluleke also summoned NGOs in the province last year, wanting to know their source of funding and programs, while warning them against dabbling in politics and elections.

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