SAFTU condemns the Zimbabwe government for corruption, including the judicial system, when targeting political opponents and trade unions
SAFTU is aware that the Zimbabwean government has over time succeeded in distorting the country’s judiciary into a rogue group of thugs-in-wigs, with no regard whatsoever for human rights. The worst examples of this transformation are the three Harare magistrates: Ngoni Nduna, Trynos Utahwashe and Bianca Makwande. The three are accused by many lawyers and activists of abusing the rule of law.
Messrs Nduna and Utahwashe have denied bail three times to journalist/activist Hopewell Chin’ono, who sent out a tweet promoting an anti-corruption protest on July 31, and activist Jacob Ngarivhume, who promoted the protest. Both are accused of “incitement to commit violence.”
Both were arrested more than a month ago.
Magistrate Nduna has also banned Mr Chin’ono’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from attending to her client.
Ms Makwande refused bail to three injured opposition activists who claimed they were abducted and sexually abused in May. She was previously criticised by the Harare High Court for denying bail in another case.
The judiciary in Zimbabwe has long been dependent on seniors loyal to Zanu PF. The magistrates are the first level of judicial officials accused of unfair rulings. These three, in particular, are noted by many lawyers as extremely partisan.
Messrs Chin’ono and Ngarivhume will now have to apply again to the Harare High Court for bail.
Veritas, an NGO which analyses Zimbabwe’s laws and parliament, released this statement when the two were first denied bail, pointing out why bail is an essential part of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution:
They have not yet been convicted of an offence and so the law presumes them to be innocent. Quite a large number of them are in fact innocent. It would be unjust to imprison them before their trial.
· Allowing them to go free pending trial enables them to consult their lawyers and prepare for trial. It is difficult to do this from prison.
· Keeping people in prison is expensive for the State and deeply humiliating for the people concerned.
· Finally, and most importantly, section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution states that anyone who has been arrested:
“must be released unconditionally or on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons justifying their continued detention”.
In other words, they must be granted bail unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.
On the other hand, it has to be accepted that many people awaiting trial will be convicted, that some may be tempted to abscond, some may commit further offences, and some may try to interfere with witnesses and evidence. If the likelihood of any of these happening is strong enough it may amount to a compelling reason for keeping the persons in prison.
Further, the Mnangagwa regime has arrested the Members of Parliament for the Zengeza West constituency, Job Sikhala. He is facing the same charges faced by Chin’nono and Ngarivhume. His chances of getting bail are very slim since a precedent set here will be replicated.
The repressive regime is also hunting down 12 other citizens including three trade union leaders, Peter Mutasa, the President of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU); Robson Chere, the Secretary General of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ); and Obert Masaraure, the ARTUZ President. The only sin committed by the union leaders is to demand a living wage for their members.
The oppressive region is accusing all 12 of inciting public violence and leading the 31 July protests.
It should be noted that there were no incidents of violence during or even in the run up to the 31 July protest actions. Yet the regime seeks to arrest these unionists and parliamentarians for inciting violence that never happened.
It is clear that the accused live with their families in Zimbabwe, on their own properties, and have no right to be anywhere else. They see themselves as ongoing activists for a better democracy in Zimbabwe.
All this is being done to punish those who use their right to freedom of expression, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe. Quite clearly, Zimbabwe’s regime long ago shredded the constitution even though it was written in the blood of the Zimbabwean freedom struggle martyrs.
We consider an injury to one, an injury to all. Given how much suffering the South African government has caused to the povo of Zimbabwe, we certainly do not trust the politically-obsessed relationship between the ANC and ZanuPF. The South African government’s special envoys will never, under these circumstances, bring the povo their long-delayed peace and prosperity. As is happening in so many countries on our continent, we instead expect the Harare regime to finally wear thin the patience of working-class people, including the peasantry. A democratic uprising against Mnangagwa and the tinpot judiciary trying to protect him, will have our full support.