The Harassment of Justice: A Tale of a Tale
A couple of months ago, I published “The Story of Beatrice Mtetwa-A Red Herring’ in which I posed a number of theories pertaining to Beatrice’s arrest. One of them was that Beatrice’s arrest was an intimidation tactic by state agents of all citizens who would wish to take the same stand as Beatrice; i.e. the stand to fight against any injustice visited upon individuals who are fighting for human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens. I emphasised that Beatrice’s persecution and vilification was meant as an example calculated to ensure that sufficient fear was planted in all of us so that whoever doesn’t toe the correct political line, will face the full wrath of those in power, under the guise of the law.
This theory seems the most relevant given the continued onslaught that the state has launched against Beatrice. This blog however seeks not to over-analyse the reasons behind the onslaught but rather to give an update of how this case has proceeded.
- 17 March: Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested in Avondale. On arrest she was charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice in contravention of Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
- 18 March: at exactly 0151 a.m. High Court Judge Charles Hungwe, from his home, ordered Beatrice’s immediate release. He argued that there was no basis for her continued detention since the allegations laid against Beatrice did not reveal a criminal offence.
- 18 March: around 0230 a.m. Beatrice’s lawyers served Justice Hungwe’s order on officers at Rhodesville police station. The police officers refused to release Beatrice.
- 18 March: Beatrice’s lawyers lodged an application in the High Court stating that the refusal by the police to enforce Justice Hungwe’s order was in contempt of court.
- 18 March: Beatrice was told that she would appear in court on 19 March and based on this information her lawyers withdrew their application.
- 18 March: Justice Hlatshwayo dealt with the withdrawn application and dismissed it with no reasons given.
- 19 March: Beatrice appeared before Magistrate, Marehwanazvo Gofa, at Rotten Row Magistrates Court represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu to determine her remand conditions. Advocate Mpofu argued that this hearing should not have been done in the Magistrates Court since an order of the High Court a more superior court had already granted Beatrice’s release.
- 19 March: Advocate Mpofu argued that Beatrice had not been treated well in police custody because in the dead of the night, on 18 March two male police officers entered Beatrice’s detention cell at Rhodesville Police Station and attempted to uncover her from her blankets. Beatrice feared that she might be raped. Further, she had not been allowed to bath since her arrest.
- 19 March: the Magistrate ruled that the case was rightly before the Magistrates Court because the issue of her placement on remand was separate from the issue of her detention in police custody.
- 19 March: Beatrice’s lawyers proceeded to request that she be remanded out of custody and gave reasons why she should be granted bail including that she is a highly reputable and established lawyer, with no criminal record.
- 19 March: the Prosecution requested an adjournment to respond to Beatrice’s lawyers’ argument and the Magistrate adjourned the case to 20 March 2013.
- 20 March: the State argued that Beatrice should not be granted bail because the charges she was facing were very serious, that she would likely abscond because she had a foreign passport, or that she would interfere with investigations if released and that her release would set a dangerous precedent. “Anarchy would prevail”, they argued.
- 20 March: Magistrate Gofa bought into the prosecutor’s argument and dismissed Beatrice’s bail application and remanded her in custody to 3 April.
- 21 March: Beatrice’s lawyers appealed this decision in High Court.
- 22 March: Justice Joseph Musakwa heard the appeal.
- 22 March: State requested adjournment of the appeal to ‘allow time to submit their response.’ Justice Musakwa agreed to the adjournment and set down the appeal hearing for 25 March.
- 25 March: Justice Musakwa granted Beatrice $500 bail setting aside the Magistrate’s on the basis that Beatrice’s reputation was too great to be ignored and that the police had not shown how much of the investigation was left to be “interfered with.”
- 3 April: Beatrice appeared before Donald Ndirowei for a routine remand hearing. Magistrate Ndirowei postponed the matter to 8 April to allow the State to determine a trial date and her lawyers to challenge her being remanded.
- 5 April: the prosecution served Beatrice with papers setting out their case against her. The prosecutors added fresh allegations against Beatrice. The fresh allegations stated that on top of saying “Stop whatever you are doing, it’s unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic,” as was the case in the initial charge, Beatrice had also said “You confused cockroaches” “Murimbwa dzaMugabe” i.e. “You are Mugabe’s dogs” and that she had conducted herself in an ‘indecent’ manner when she threatened to relieve herself in a public place.The case named nine witnesses set to testify. These were:
- Chief Superintendent-Luckson Mukazhi
- Detective Assistant Inspector-Wilfred Chibage
- Detective Constable-Ngatirwe Mamizi
- Detective Sergeant-Taizivei Tembo
- Assistant Inspector-Thabani Nkomo
- Chido Chawanikwa-a police officer
- Stembiwe Vera-a caretaker at Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s research and development office
- Brian Mutusva-a computer technician in the Prime Minister’s Office and
- Zororai Mudariki-a driver.
- 8 April: Beatrice appeared in the magistrates’ court. The state’s case was led by Tawanda Zvekare, Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office, assisted by Michael Mugabe, a chief law officer.
- 8 April: Beatrice was remanded on bail and the case was adjourned to 27 May when the trial was expected to begin.
- 27 May: Beatrice’s case was set to start at Rotten Row Magistrates Court presided over by Magistrate Tendai Mahwe. The trial failed to start on time because Tawanda Zvekare, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office and Michael Mugabe, the chief law officer who were leading the prosecution did not arrive at the court on time. The trial was also delayed because the designated courtroom did not have the necessary equipment to record the proceedings. Then when eventually a courtroom with equipment was found, power went off.
- 27 May: Magistrate Tendai Mahwe postponed Beatrice’ trial to 8 June 2013.
- 8 June: Magistrate Tendai Mahwe recused himself from presiding over Beatrice’s trial after she had filed an application for such recusal stating that Magistrate Mahwe had already heard the testimony that her witness would give in another case.
- 10 June: Beatrice’s trial kicked off at Rotten Row Magistrates Court presided over by Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa. She was represented by her lawyer, Harrison Nkomo. Beatrice pleaded not guilty to charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
- 10 June: Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa postponed Beatrice’s trial to Saturday 15 June 2013 to allow her lawyer to attend to some other matters in the High Court.
- Meanwhile the trial continues with hearings held each Saturday and we wait to hear what the final verdict will be.
Anomalies with this case
- Arrest of a legal practitioner while conducting her duties;
- Contempt of court by police officers ignoring a High Court order;
- Retrial by the Magistrates Court of an issue that had already been decided by a higher court;
- Harassment of a High Court Judge for ordering the release of an upright human rights defender;
- Display of political intolerance and disregard for constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom and rights of citizens.
**** If convicted, Beatrice stands to serve a maximum penalty of either a fine of $400 or 2 years’ imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment. ****