By Professor Matodzi
Harare, November 25, 2013 – Celebrated human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, on Tuesday marks another leg in the long journey to justice as she returns to Harare Magistrates Court where the court will deliver her ruling on an application for discharge at the close of the State case.
Mtetwa, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is seeking to have charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice brought against her dismissed for want of evidence.
In her application for discharge, Mtetwa wants Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa to return a verdict of not guilty after the State closed its case late last month.
Under Zimbabwean laws, the award winning human rights lawyer is entitled to be discharged if Mugwagwa is satisfied that State prosecutors failed to adduce evidence that she committed the alleged offence of obstructing the police from carrying out their duties.
The State represented by Tawanda Zvekare from the National Prosecuting Authority has opposed Mtetwa’s application.
The feisty human rights lawyer was put on trial since June, where she has been answering to charges of contravening Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly defeating or obstructing the course of justice. She was arrested on 17 March 2013.
Police accused her of obstructing the course of justice by allegedly interfering with a search conducted at the residence of one of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s aides and at the former Premier’s offices in Harare.
But Mtetwa argues that there is no evidence to prove an essential element of the offence and that there is no evidence on which a reasonable court, acting carefully, might properly convict. She also argues that the evidence adduced on behalf of the State is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court could safely act on it.
In her defence, Mtetwa said the charges brought against her were part of a broader agenda to fix her for defending several tormented human rights defenders, who have been persecuted by state security agents in Zimbabwe and for standing up to human rights excesses.
She argued that she simply asked to be shown a search warrant by the police officers to substantiate their actions.
At the time of the close of the State’s case, Zvekare had led evidence from five witnesses namely, Chief Superintendent Luckson Mukazhi, Detective Assistant Inspector Wilfred Chibage, Detective Constable Ngatirwe Mamiza, Detective Sergeant Taizivei Tembo and Briam Mutusva whom the State considered key to secure a conviction against Mtetwa.
The human rights lawyer has secured acquittals for prominent politicians among them Roy Bennett and human rights lawyers and activists such as Alec Muchadehama and Jestina Mukoko.