Roderick Tokwe, a law officer in the AG’s Office, filed a chamber application last Friday seeking leave to appeal against the acquittal of Muchadehama, a partner at Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners and a dedicated senior member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for human Rights (ZLHR).
In his Notice of Appeal and the Grounds of Appeal Tokwe argued that Magistrate Fadzai Mthombeni erred and misdirected herself in acquitting Muchadehama and Constance Gambara, the clerk of High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, whom he was jointly charged with at the close of the State case last December.
Tokwe claimed that Muchadehama and Gambara brought the administration of justice into contempt by allegedly disobeying Justice Bhunu’s order granting the AG leave to appeal against bail awarded to three victims of State sponsored abduction namely Gandhi Mudzingwa, Kisimusi Dhlamini and Andrison Manyere, who were represented by the human rights lawyer.
In his application the law officer wants the human rights lawyer and Justice Bhunu’s clerk to be placed before the trial court for a continuation of the trial.
In an attempt to recommence with the trial of Muchadehama, Austin Muziwi, the Principal Law Officer in the AG’s Office states in an affidavit that the late filing of the chamber application for review though regretted was as a result of problems encountered by the Chief Transcriber in preparing the transcript.
Muziwi claims that there is no time limit laid down within which as the trial prosecutor he could file the application for leave to appeal and thus he is seeking a condonation of the High Court.
Muchadehama, a crusading human rights lawyer, who had been on trial for contempt of court was acquitted on Thursday 10 December 2009 together with Gambara at the close of the State case as the prosecutors failed to prove the essential elements of the crime.
The two had been on trial since June 2009 for allegedly facilitating the illegal release from Chikurubi Maximum Prison of two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials Mudzingwa and Dhlamini and Manyere, a freelance photo-journalist, who had been granted bail by High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe.
Magistrate Mthombeni ruled that there was no prima facie case warranting to put the two on their defence.
The attempt to once again put Muchadehama on trial has drawn of ire of ZLHR which “expressed shock and outrage at the malicious actions of the Attorney General (AG) in appealing against the acquittal of prominent human rights lawyer.
“At the very least, a reasonable perception has been created by these unprocedural actions that this is an act of blatant malice by an office led by partisan AG, Johannes Tomana, whose outstanding issue status has yet to be fully dealt with by the three principals to the Interparty Political Agreement. It is solely calculated to distract Muchadehama from his core business in representing human rights defenders and hamper his ability to deal with other cases as he will be forced to spend time and energy defending himself against continuing frivolous charges,” ZLHR said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Persecuting lawyers for simply carrying out their lawful duties and ensuring the fundamental right to legal representation for countless repressed human rights defenders in Zimbabwe is a cowardly and evil act calculated to harass and intimidate an independent legal profession and break the existing legal safety net for human rights defenders. Such actions cannot be tolerated or condoned in a democratic society. They only validate charges that the AG is out to fulfill the political agenda of certain parties and individuals against perceived opponents through convictions at all costs,” ZLHR said.
The rights group said it was saddening and shocking that the persecution and harassment of Muchadehama is going on right under the nose of an Inclusive Government that claims to be making much progress in resolving the country’s political crisis, and at a time when SADC Heads of States and Government are meeting at a Summit in Namibia to review developments in Zimbabwe.
“ZLHR is of the strong belief that progressive elements from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) within the Inclusive Government are not doing enough to resolve the outstanding issue of a partisan Attorney General and a clique of law officers who are intent on fighting political battles rather than ensuring the swift and effective prosecution of perpetrators of murder and violence to fight the pervasive culture of impunity within our society. As the greatest current threat to the restoration of the Rule of Law in Zimbabwe, action is needed to resolve this outstanding issue, and it is needed now,” ZLHR said.