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Rights breaches alleged as PM’s aides seek ConCourt hearing
Nomalanga Moyo, SW Radio Africa

July 04, 2013

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The four employees from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office accused of impersonating a police officer, on Tuesday asked that their case be referred to the Constitutional Court, citing breaches of their rights at the lower courts.

The four, arrested together with their lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on March 17th during a raid on the PM’s Avondale offices, deny that they passed themselves off as public officials when they compiled corruption reports on senior state officials, including those at the Attorney-General’s office.

Thabani Mpofu, Mehluli Tshuma, Felix Matsinde and Warship Dumba – whose list of charges has ballooned from three to 13 since the trial began – are alleged to have breached the Official Secrets Act.

Their lawyer Alec Muchadehama told SW Radio Africa that his clients want their case referred to the top court, citing breaches to their constitutional rights.

“My clients are arguing that their constitutional rights were violated and that requires us in part to lead evidence from the accused, and that started yesterday with Mpofu explaining how his rights were violated.

“Matsinde will testify next, but for now they have been remanded until July 11th when the case will resume,” he said.

Muchadehama said some of his clients’ concerns are that they are being prosecuted by the same AG’s office that they are alleged to have been investigating.

“We are saying that they can’t be prosecuted by the same people that are accusing them because that will be a serious breach of their fundamental rights.

“Secondly, they were arrested based on some documents obtained through unlawfully executed and obtained search warrants. In any case, there is clearly no reasonable suspicion that they committed the offence and to prosecute them under those circumstances will breach their rights to freedom of movement, deprivation of liberty and privacy,” the lawyer said.

However, the prosecution is opposing the application for referral to the ConCourt, arguing that the rights of Mpofu and his co-accused were not violated.

In March, High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa recused himself from hearing a bail application by the four, saying to do so would lead to a conflict of interest as he once worked with Mpofu, Matsinde and Tshuma at the AG’s office.

Muchadehama, who is also representing Mpofu on a separate charge of possessing an unlicenced firearm, revealed that his client will be returning to court for judgement on July 19th.

In a related case prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who was arrested and detained for eight days for demanding to see a warrant authorising police to search the PM’s Avondale offices, will return to court on July 19th.

During a recent interview with Canadian newspaper the Globe & Mail, Mtetwa said she was not really shocked when she was arrested.

“I’m surprised it took them this long to trump-up charges against me, but I’m ready for whatever comes my way. The government recently added more than a dozen new charges to the indictment. Every day the story changes, so I’m curious to know what I’ll be facing when we get to trial.

“Of course, it’s a sign of [the charges] being trumped up, because if I did something [wrong] one day, in a couple of minutes, it’s amazing that every day there are new charges. It’s distressing, but not unexpected,” Mtetwa added.

Meanwhile, the 29 MDC-T activists arrested in 2011 for allegedly murdering a police officer in Glen View, Harare, face an uncertain wait after judgement was reserved indefinitely on their application for discharge.

All the 29 activists, five of whom are still in custody, deny murdering police inspector Petros Mutedza who died while responding to reports of political disturbances in the suburb.

Human rights activist Earnest Mudzengi told SW Radio Africa Thursday that it was worrying that law enforcement agents were putting politics ahead of human rights.

“I can think of many other cases where people’s rights to fair treatment and a fair trial have been suspended for political reasons.

“We’ve seen people such as Mtetwa, Jestina Mukoko and the five MDC-T activists being kept in custody even when the case for bail is stronger than that against.

“It is obvious that the aim will be harass, intimidate and silence outspoken individuals who are seen as a threat in certain quarters and there tends to be a surge at election times. That is why we need reforms in the security sector and the judiciary so that this partisan application of the law can stop.”

Mudzengi said it was likely that most of the politically motivated court cases that are currently dragging on will fall away after the elections, scheduled for July 31st.

SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe's Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.

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