Justice delayed

abednigo_bbhebhe250BULAWAYO - Two opposition politicians who have spent five years with assault and indecency charges hanging over their heads have successfully applied to have the matter referred to the Supreme Court. (Pictured: Abedinico Bhebhe)

Abednico Bhebhe and Alex Goosen want the Supreme Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, to declare that the failure to commence their trial since their arrest in 2006 constitutes a violation of their right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time as enshrined in the Constitution.

The pairs case has been pending since October 2006 when they were charged with contravening section 89(1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform)Act (assault) and section 67(1) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (indecent assault).

The State alleges that Bhebhe and Goosen, who jointly operate a butchery business in Bulawayo, unlawfully pushed some people at their premises on 11 October 2006. Bhebhe is alleged to have pushed and fondled one of the female complainants in the matter.

Since 2006, the State has failed to bring the matter to trial, a situation that the politicians argue violates their constitutional rights.

The State has unnecessarily delayed trial in this matter thus almost five years now will definitely put the applicants into an irreversible prejudice that will lead into an unfair trial, argued the pairs legal practitioners in the application for referral to the Supreme Court.

The delay is very unreasonable taking into account the nature of the charge against the applicants which charge is assault.

There are no complications in evidence, there is no documentation that is outstanding or required, there are only a few witnesses for the State who have been available ever since, but trial has not commenced to the detriment of the applicants.

The applicants lives have been seriously disrupted and their sense of security impaired.Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is representing Bhebhe and Goosen. Magistrate Sithembiso Ncube granted Bhebhe and Goosens application to refer the matter to the Supreme Court in terms of Section 24 (2) of the Constitution which states that: If in any proceedings in the High Court or in any court subordinate to the High Court any question arises as to the contravention of the Declaration of Rights, the person presiding in that court may, and if so requested by any party to the proceedings shall, refer the question to the Supreme Court unless, in his opinion, the raising of the question is merely frivolous or vexatious.

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