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Legal Monitor - Issue 126
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

January 16, 2012

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New Year, old problems

Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana is again gunning for Alec Muchadehama, a prominent human rights lawyer who has suffered repeated harassment at the hands of the State.

Tomana has asked the Supreme Court to allow a late appeal by his office against the freeing of Muchadehama and Constance Gambara, a clerk to High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu on charges of contempt of court under Section 182 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).

Gambara has another separate charge of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.

The AG accuses Muchadehama and Gambara of facilitating the improper release of Shadreck Manyere, a freelance journalist and senior Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials Chris Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa. The three men were abducted and tortured by State security agents during the period they were in abduction in late 2008.

The three were later admitted to bail but the AG argued they were released when the bail granting was being appealed against. High Court Judge Justice Joseph Musakwa in 2010 dismissed the AG's chamber application for leave to appeal against the Magistrates Court's acquittal of Muchadehama and Gambara.

The two were acquitted in December 2009.

The AG failed to appeal against Justice Musakwa's ruling on time, and has now filed an application for late noting of the appeal. In his application to the Supreme Court, Tomana argues that he still has chances of getting the acquittal overturned.

"It is submitted that, the trial countered and misdirected itself in acquitting the Respondents (Muchadehama and Gambara) at the close of the State case when evidence placed before it clearly proved that the Respondents disobedience of the Order of the Court, manifested on actual disrespect for the court to the extent that it brought the due administration of justice into contempt," Tomana argues.

"It is respectfully submitted that, if the condonation is allowed to proceed through, it would not cause unnecessary delays in the administration of justice but would rather advance the interests of justice," he states in the application.

A prosecutor handling the case at the time Justice Musakwa dismissed the AG's application for leave to appeal stated in the Supreme Court application that he failed to file the appeal on time partly because he was fighting a messy divorce.

"From June 2011 to December 2011, six months have since elapsed and the delay is wholly attributed to my personal problems which have nothing to do with the Respondent," stated Roderick Kudakwashe Tokwe, a chief law officer, in papers supporting Tomana's Supreme Court application.

"I was embroiled in a bitter marital divorce which was published in Newsday through my ex-wife's lawyers, Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners in 2010. Against that background, I was battling to have my late father treated through various doctors as he was suffering from hypertension, heart problems and acute renal failure," stated Tokwe, adding: "I therefore seek the indulgence of this Honourable Court to be sympathetic with my predicament on humanitarian grounds."

Muchadehama, who has won multiple awards for his human rights work, has repeatedly stated his innocence.

Police arrested him on the matter at the Harare Magistrates Court as he attended to other cases involving his clients.

His harassment caused uproar, with coalition government partner MDC, lawyers' bodies and international human groups voicing concern at the targeting of Muchadehama by State security and judicial apparatus.

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