Court frees Zimbabwean lawyer Muchadehama
By Violet Gonda
1 June 2009
Prominent human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama was on Monday removed from remand by Harare magistrate Catherine Chimanda. The lawyer was arrested on May 15th for allegedly â€˜connivingâ€™ with Justice Chinembiri Bhunuâ€™s clerk, to facilitate the release of his clients, abductees Chris Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa and Shadreck Andrison, on bail. He was accused of doing this after the State had been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the granting of bail.
The lawyer was facing charges of obstructing the course of justice, but on Monday Magistrate Chimanda dropped the charges, saying the State had failed to provide enough evidence to show that the accused committed the offence.
Muchadehama said: â€œWe had applied for two aspects, namely that the Attorney General (AG) could not prosecute me because he was an interested party, because he was both the complainant and the prosecutor. And the other application was that I was not supposed to be placed on remand in the first place because the facts which the State was alleging did not find a reasonable suspicion that I had committed an offence.â€
Magistrate Chimanda ruled in his favour, noting that the lawyer had handled the issue of his clients bail transparently and had written a letter to the Registrar, copied it to all concerned stakeholders and had checked at the Supreme Court and found that â€˜no notice of appeal had been filed by the State.â€™ The magistrate also noted that it is possible to differ on the interpretation of a section of the Criminal Evidence and Procedure Act, over the issue of the 7 day time frame (notice) period, but she said that can hardly be perceived to have created an offence.
The magistrate added that if Muchadehama had wanted to obstruct the course of justice, it was doubtful that he would have chosen to communicate his intended action to the AGâ€™s office.Â She however dismissed the second application by the defence on the issue of the AG assuming both roles of being the complainant and the prosecutor in the same matter.
Constance Gambara, the clerk to High Court Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, was also arrested over the same issue. She was released from remand prison together with her nine month old baby recently, but it is unclear if charges against her have also been dropped.Â Muchadehama said he wasnâ€™t sure about the status of her case, but believed she was still on remand as the Stateâ€™s version of events keep on changing.
â€œSometimes they say I connived with the judgeâ€™s clerk and then they change it to say I caused their (clients) release when I knew that leave to appeal had been granted, then they change again to say that I misinterpreted a section of the Criminal Act. Then they change to say I knew what the seven days pertained to.Â So I really donâ€™t know whether they are sticking to that story that I connived with the judgeâ€™s clerk because that simply did not happen. I am not sure what is happening there but I cannot say what the Stateâ€™s story is in regard to what her allegations are, but I understand they pertain to criminal abuse of office. I do not know in what way because I did not address any letter to her. I addressed the letter to the registrar of the High Court.â€
Meanwhile, next week the trials of the MDC and civic activists abducted from their homes last year will begin. Muchadehama said MDC activist Concillia Chinanzvavana and three others will be heard on the 8th June; MDC officials Dhlamini, Mudzingwa, Manyere and four others on the 29th June;Â followed by the group with civic leader Jestina Mukoko on 20th July. They are all accused of plotting to overthrow the former ZANU PF government. They deny the charges.
â€œThe biggest worry in this case is that our clients are the victims. So we have victims in the dock while the perpetrators of actual crimes, the people who kidnapped and tortured our clients, are out there. Some are actually coming to purport to be witnesses to the violations of our clientsâ€™ rights. So these are the issues that we will be raising in court,â€ their lawyer said.
Tsvangirai concerned about delay in implementing GPA issues
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 June 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is reported to be deeply concerned with the delay in implementing the issues agreed to, in the Global Political Agreement.
Tsvangiraiâ€™s spokesman, James Maridadi, said the Prime Minister was expected meet Mugabe on Monday for their weekly meeting and was expected to raise these issues once again.
â€˜Yes its true the Prime Minister intends to raise these issues with the President in his meeting,â€™ Maridadi said. Two weeks ago, Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare that the three party principals had managed to iron out a number of outstanding issues but that â€˜the process was slow and frustrating.â€™
Last month Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara finally agreed on most of the outstanding issues still facing the unity government. But these agreements have still not been implemented.Â There is also the remaining problem of the irregular appointments of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana – issues which Mugabe has made clear he will not budge on.
The agreements reached included the fact that Mugabe would retrench six provincial ZANU PF governors that he appointed. The Prime Minister said the new governors from the MDC would be sworn in â€œat the soonest of opportunity.â€™
Mugabe also agreed to swear in Roy Bennett, the national treasurer of the MDC and Tsvangiraiâ€™s nominee for the post of deputy agricultural minister. Bennett is likely to be sworn in at the same time with the governors.
Our Harare correspondent, Simon Muchemwa told us the delay in implementing the GPA issues was now being felt by ordinary citizens. He said people were blaming the current shortages of cash on Mugabeâ€™s reluctance to speed up the process.
â€˜People are frustrated and they know aid will not come in unless there are visible reforms on the ground. There is an outcry that GPA delays are taking the country backwards,â€™ Muchemwa said.
Revamping the economy and persuading skeptical foreign donors and investors to help is the top priority for Tsvangirai. But none of this will be achievable until Mugabe shows he is genuinely prepared to relinquish power.
UN appeals for US$718 million for humanitarian aid for Zimbabwe
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 June 2009
The United Nations has said Zimbabwe needs $718 million in immediate aid, to stave off hunger for over six million people.
The UN released a report on Friday saying that apart from the severe food shortages, 6 million people have no access to safe water or sanitation, while 600,000 families will need farm aid for the upcoming planting season.
â€˜The countryâ€™s humanitarian needs remain staggering. There is the concern that, unless conditions change, outbreaks of waterborne diseases at the onset of the next rainy season could lead to new cholera cases and higher humanitarian needs,â€™ the UN said in the report.
4000 people have died of cholera since August last year and another 100,000 caught the disease. Last year the UN appealed for $550 million to assist the country, but this has been revised upwards as the crisis has worsened. So far $246 million has been given, about a third of what is needed.
Augustino Zacarias, the UN resident humanitarian coordinator in Harare, has urged donors to help the country as the new unity government struggles to meet the nationâ€™s needs.
MDC calls for urgent SADC summit
By Lance Guma
01 June 2009
The MDC used a national conference over the weekend to call on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to convene an extraordinary summit, to tackle the outstanding issues plaguing the coalition government. Over 1000 party delegates converged on Harare for the first national conference since the MDC entered into the shaky coalition government with ZANU PF.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Newsreel on Monday that delegates resolved that Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana must step down in the national interest. With district and provincial reports being submitted and debated, the delegates agreed that both Gono and Tomana had â€˜poisoned the economic and human rights situation in the country.â€™ Since SADC and the African Union acted as guarantors to the deal, the MDC now want them to intervene and resolve the impasse.
In other resolutions the MDC vowed it would re-engage civil society groups in the constitution making process and that â€˜a genuinely free and fair election must be held at the conclusion of the process.â€™ The party also said the country needed a legal framework to help deal with the plight of victims of political violence. Party delegates were also critical of what they felt was the slow pace of media reforms, high tariffs from state owned service providers and the deployment of army personnel in the villages.
Commenting on ongoing political violence and persecution, Chamisa told us the party urged Finance Minister Tendai Biti to ensure government did not fund any youth militia structures as these promoted violence. The party also demanded that the National Security Council, that had been established to replace the notorious Joint Operations Command, â€˜must meet urgently in terms of the law.â€™ There are reports Mugabe is refusing to sign the National Security Council bill into law and in the meantime the JOC continues to meet.
The MDC resolutions clearly sought to draw a line between the party and the government. Tsvangirai for example told delegates â€˜the MDC is in government but we are not the government. These are the limitations in a marriage of convenience. Those in government will tell you this government is walking on a thin thread.â€™ The Prime Minister has over the months drawn criticism for defending Mugabe too much, at the expense of his own credibility. Over the weekend however his party was not so diplomatic.
Meanwhile Tsvangirai is set to make his first overseas trip by going to France at the end of June. French Junior trade minister Anne-Marie Idrac, who is visiting Zimbabwe, extended the invitation after praising Tsvangirai for his work in the unity government.