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  • Marange, Chiadzwa and other diamond fields and the Kimberley Process - Index of articles

  • Maguwu removed from remand prison – Bill Watch 23/2010
    June 12, 2010

    The Senate will meet on Tuesday 15th June,The House of Assembly has adjourned until Wednesday 30th June

    Human rights defender Maguwu removed from remand prison by police

    Lawyers for Farai Maguwu, remanded in custody on Thursday on charges of communicating information prejudicial to the State about events at Chiadzwa diamond field, were concerned for his safety this morning, when they discovered he was not where he should have been, at Harare Remand Prison. He had been removed by police on Friday afternoon. Neither the prison authorities nor the police Law and Order Section would disclose his whereabouts. After a search the lawyers eventually traced him to Matapi Police Station, where he had been held since 4 pm on Friday. [Matapi is notorious for the deplorable condition of its cells, generally considered unfit for human habitation, and for the beatings and assaults that have taken place there. The move seemed to serve no other purpose other than that of intimidation. Holding Mr Maguwu at Matapi seems especially perverse, given that the court was told during the remand hearing that he was already unwell.] Police declined to explain why they had chosen to take Mr Maguwu to Matapi, claiming complete discretion as to place of detention. This afternoon Mr Maguwu was taken to Harare Central Law and Order Section and questioned by Detective Inspector Dowa. It is an accused person’s right to have his lawyer present during questioning, but this was refused, although his lawyers were allowed access to him both before and after he was interrogated. He was interrogated on fresh allegations concerning documents said to have been supplied by him to Kimberley Process Monitor Abbey Chikane. Police have said they will take Mr Maguwu back to the remand prison on Monday, so he will remain in police custody at Harare Central until then. On Monday his lawyers will apply to the High Court for bail.

    [Mr Maguwu, Director of the Centre for Research and Development [CRD], a Mutare-based NGO, was remanded until 23rd June on allegations of contravening section 31 of the Criminal Law Code – communication of false information prejudicial to the State. Although early reports suggested the case concerned his giving a secret State document to Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane [which Mr Maguwu denies], the charge on which he was remanded alleges communication by e-mail to other persons of reports compiled by CRD on human rights abuses attributed to security force personnel stationed at the Marange/Chiadzwa diamond field.]

    Judicial Service Act to come into force

    The Judicial Service Act [passed by Parliament in 2006] will come into force on Friday 18th June, when a statutory instrument fixing that date as the date of commencement of the Act will be gazetted. The principal practical effect of this will be that magistrates and the support staff for all courts will no longer fall under the Public Service Commission and will in future be appointed and administered by the Judicial Service Commission [JSC]. In principle this is an important step towards establishing the independence of the magistracy from control and influence of the Executive.

    The JSC will also be responsible for managing the funds allocated to the Judicial Service by Parliament. It will make regulations setting out the conditions of service of magistrates, but the regulations will require the approval of the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs before being gazetted as law. Funding will still depend on appropriations made by Parliament, and like all public money JSC funds will be subject to the ultimate control of the Ministry of Finance.

    It is to be hoped that these changes will contribute to bringing about an environment in which magistrates feel free to exercise their judicial functions without fear or favour. But paper changes need to be backed up by the promotion in all sectors of society of respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. It is difficult for judicial officers to feel confidence in their position when senior politicians openly urge people to disregard court orders and the government fails to honour court decisions.

    [Note: Presiding officers of customary courts will not form part of the new Judicial Service nor will the customary courts be administered by the Judicial Service Commission.]

    Parliamentary Update

    Constitution Outreach: The long-delayed Constitution Outreach to ascertain what the people want in the new Constitution is due to be launched on Wednesday 16th June, despite last-minute threats by some members of Parliament to boycott the Outreach over what they consider inadequate daily allowances. The late start means that the process may have to be interrupted to allow Parliament to sit to pass priority Bills, in which case it will take longer than the 65 days originally planned. [Parliamentary Standing Orders permit the recall of the Senate and the House of Assembly during an adjournment if that becomes necessary to deal with urgent business.]

    Senate meeting likely to be brief: The Senate will meet on Tuesday after a break of over three months, during which it was believed the Constitution Outreach process would be completed. With the Outreach only due to start after the launch on Wednesday, the Senate is almost certain to adjourn for another lengthy period to allow Senators to play their role in the Outreach.

    Senate agenda for Tuesday: The only items on the agenda are partly-debated motions carried forward from March. These include debates on access to clean water; climate change; and home-based care programmes for those on anti-retroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS.

    Committee meetings suspended indefinitely: Meetings of House of Assembly Portfolio Committees and Senate Thematic Committees have been suspended with effect from Monday 14th June until further notice.

    Committee Reports: Although the Houses have not been sitting for three months, portfolio and thematic committees have been meeting throughout the period and doing a great deal of work. Reports on that work will be tabled and debated in the House of Assembly and the Senate in due course. Normally such reports only become publicly available once tabled. It would be regrettable if tabling is going to be delayed because of the forthcoming adjournments. Veritas is urging Committee chairpersons to table reports that have been finalised on the days the Senate and House of Assembly meet briefly before adjourning for the Constitution Outreach.

    Government work plan for remainder of 2010

    The Government Work Plan, agreed several months ago, provides for the passage of a more than 20 Bills by year-end, of which 10 are regarded as priority Bills. In his capacity as Leader of Government Business in Parliament, the Prime Minister will next week meet the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs [chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation] to discuss when Bills will be ready for Parliament. The following week he will meet the House of Assembly and Senate Business Committees to plan a programme of sittings to deal with Bills. Depending on priority Bills becoming available, it could be decided that the Constitution Outreach will have to be interrupted for a short period or periods to allow such Bills to be dealt with.

    Inclusive government update

    Principals and negotiators report: The three party principals had a lengthy meeting on Tuesday afternoon and evening to discuss the negotiators’ report of 6th April. They failed to reach agreement on any of those sticking points which the party negotiators had been unable to resolve. President Zuma’s facilitation team is due in Harare on Monday 14th June in a follow up to the principals’ meeting, and the continuing deadlock will have to be reported to President Zuma and then to the SADC Organ Troika with a view to a SADC Summit. [Comment: The Soccer World Cup finals in South Africa run from 11th June to 11th July. So it may well be that any serious moves by President Zuma will be delayed until the World Cup is over. The next regular SADC Summit is scheduled for August, which could mean that hopes of a special Summit before then are unrealistic.]

    South African report on 2002 Zimbabwe presidential election

    On 4th June, the South African High Court [judgement available on request] ordered the South African government to provide the Mail and Guardian newspaper with a copy of a report on the 2002 Zimbabwe Presidential Election prepared for President Mbeki by two senior South African judges. The M&G brought the application to court under section 82 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), after two previous attempts were rebuffed by the Deputy Information Officer in the Office of the Presidency. The M&G contended the report was of enormous public interest, especially given the widespread view that the elections were marred by vote-rigging, intimidation, violence and fraud by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government. They argued that making the report public was especially important in light of the fact that South Africa was one of the few countries to declare it regarded the election as free and fair. The report had to be provided within 7 days – by Friday 11th. There has not yet been any report of the President’s Office complying or appealing.

    Legislation Update

    Friday’s Government Gazette was not available, the Government Printer closed early because of the kick-off of the Football World Cup. No Bills were gazetted. Details of any important statutory instruments will be given in the next Bill Watch.

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