Access to Gwezere at last

behind_barsHARARE - The government watchdog, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), has finally been allowed access to tortured and jailed transport manager Pasco Gwezere.

The accused is facing charges of stealing 21 firearms from Pomona Army Barracks.

JOMIC reported that his condition remained critical, his tortured leg was deteriorating badly and that he had suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear. These injuries were sustained during the vicious torture session which followed his abduction by State security agents from his Mufakose home on October 27.

The Zimbabwean understands Gwezere has been taken to hospital twice in the two months he has been jailed on charges that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party says are “trumped-up”.

Languishing in prison

Gwezere remains in remand prison because the Supreme Court is yet to hear an appeal seeking to overturn a High Court ruling granting him bail. Justice Charles Hungwe granted Gwezere bail on November 19, but the State immediately invoked Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which automatically invalidates the effect of the ruling.

Gwezere’s bail conditions included depositing US$500 with the Clerk of Court in Harare, to remain resident at his given address; to report twice a week on Mondays and Fridays between 6 am and 4 pm to Harare Central Polices CID Law and Order Division; and not to interfere with evidence and witnesses.

In granting him bail, Justice Hungwe said the state had failed to demonstrate that the accused was a flight risk. But the immediate appeal just after that ruling meant he had to remain in jail for a further seven days.

On November 26, as the seven day appeal period expired, chief law officer Michael Mugabe made an application in the High Court to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The application was okayed by Justice Hungwe.

But the appeal has still not been heard by the Supreme Court, which will sit as a Constitutional Court to make a determination in the matter.

Plans to oppose application

Gwezere’s lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said he would oppose the application. The Attorney Generals (AG) office is blocking the release of Gwezere ostensibly because he could evade trial, even though Justice Hungwe noted that the state failed to establish how the interests of justice would be prejudiced if Gwezere was released on bail.

In my view, the applicant is entitled to his liberty for the moment until the matter is tried,” Justice Hungwe said.

But the AG’s office insisted the prosecution had a solid case against Gwezere on the weapons theft charges. They said releasing him on bail would tempt him to flee the country.

The Zimbabwean heard that last week, after months of pushing, JOMIC was eventually allowed visitation rights to Gwezere, one month after tabling the request. The JOMIC political liaison officer representing the MDC, Lovemore Kadenge, had a lengthy consultation with Gwezere, who has since been transferred to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

Kadenge declined to reveal details of the visit saying he wanted to prepare a report for his principals before speaking to the Press.

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