HIGH Court Judge Justice Happias Zhou on Tuesday 15 December 2020 set
aside Harare Magistrate Ngoni Nduna’s controversial decision barring
prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from representing
freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and disqualified the judicial
officer from presiding over the criminal trial of the media
Justice Zhou granted the order after Mtetwa and Chin’ono in September
filed an application for review seeking an order to set aside a ruling
by Magistrate Nduna disqualifying the multiple award winning human
rights lawyer from representing the media practitioner.
In the application for review filed by Doug Coltart of Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights and argued by Advocate Taona Nyamakura,
Mtetwa and Chin’ono contended that Magistrate Nduna’s ruling was
unconstitutional and effectively deprives the freelance journalist of
his right to legal representation of his choice.
In his ruling handed down on 17 August 2020 and which sparked local,
regional and international outrage, Magistrate Nduna disqualified
Mtetwa as Chin’ono’s lead lawyer and ordered Prosecutor-General
Kumbirai Hodzi to institute prosecution of the human rights lawyer on
charges of contempt of court and asked Law Society of Zimbabwe to take
disciplinary measures against her.
Nduna’s controversial ruling came after Prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi
of the National Prosecuting Authority asked him to sanction Mtetwa for
allegedly undermining the court by posting material on Facebook. This
was despite Mtetwa telling the court that she had no control over the
Facebook page, which is run by an American filmmaker and where some
updates on Chin’ono’s court proceedings were posted.
But on Tuesday 15 December 2020, Justice Zhou faulted Magistrate Nduna
for transgressing in arriving at his ruling and ruled that it’s not
fair for Chin’ono to be tried by the judicial officer.
Justice Zhou said justice which should be objectively and be seen to
be done will not be served if Magistrate Nduna is allowed to continue
presiding over proceedings in Chin’ono’s matter hence he should be
disqualified from participating in the freelance journalist’s criminal
trial and ordered that a different Magistrate be assigned to preside
over the media practitioner’s criminal trial.