Suspected Zanu PF supporters detain lawyers

A group of suspected ZANU PF supporters on Monday 31 October 2011 detained, harassed and threatened two human rights lawyers with assault, who had represented two Mbare residents, who were recently charged with committing sodomy.

The suspected ZANU PF supporters numbering about 40, blocked Charles Kwaramba and Obey Shava of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners, who are members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) from leaving Mbare Magistrates Court after they assumed representing Mbare residents, Lionel Grezha and Ngoni Shanya, who appeared in court on Monday 31 October before Magistrate Brighton Pabwe.

The two human rights lawyers successfully sought for a postponement of the duo’s trial to 8 November 2011 from Monday 31 October 2011 to allow them to take instructions from their clients and properly represent them as they had just assumed representing them from other lawyers.

The rowdy suspected ZANU PF supporters who were following the case in court parked their truck and camped outside the exit point at Mbare Magistrates Court where they blocked the lawyers from leaving court.

They threatened to inflict damage on the lawyers’ vehicle and assault them if they attempt to leave forcing them to retreat into the court building where they were “detained” for almost two hours.

Kwaramba and Shava informed Magistrate Pabwe of the security threat posed by the ZANU PF supporters and the Magistrate advised them to liaise with the officer in charge at the police post located at the court.

The lawyers, who made a report at Mbare Police Station only stealthily escaped after spending two hours while holed up in the court building by using another exit point, which was not spotted by the boisterous ZANU PF supporters.

The detention of the lawyers follows the recent harassment of three human rights lawyers employed by ZLHR, who first represented the two Mbare residents last week. On Monday 24 October 2011, the ZANU PF youths, who were led by Jim Kunaka, the party’s Harare province youth chairperson ambushed Belinda Chinowawa and her co-counsel, Jeremiah Bamu and Kennedy Masiye all of ZLHR as they left the court room and interrogated them for being “unpatriotic”, by representing the two Mbare residents, who were accused of committing sodomy, against President Robert Mugabe’s pronouncements castigating the practice.

At first Chinowawa, Bamu and Masiye tried to explain to the ZANU PF mob that as lawyers it was their function and duty to represent anyone who sought their services. But this only served to further incense the youths as they began hurling profanities and threatened to assault the lawyers.

Kunaka blocked the lawyers as they attempted to drive away from the court and launched a tirade

against them and threatened to stone their car if they defied him by continuing to drive.

The ZANU PF youth leader threatened the lawyers with violence should they dare to return to court last Tuesday for the delivery of the ruling of a bail application which they had filed for their clients before recording the registration numbers of their vehicles.

In response to the harassment of the lawyers, ZLHR executive director Irene Petras protested to Magistrate Pabwe, the Resident Magistrate at the Mbare Magistrates Courts against the treatment of the legal practitioners whom she said faced “a serious security issue in terms of which the lawyers face the very real probability of being assaulted and possibly even worse should they attend the Mbare Magistrates’ Court.”

Petras requested that the matter be moved from Mbare Magistrates Court to any other court where the lawyers can continue to represent their clients without fear of reprisals. The human rights lawyer said not only will the trial of the Mbare residents be imperiled should the behaviour of the ZANU PF supporters not dealt with effectively and urgently by the appropriate judicial and law enforcement authorities, but also such impunity will spur similar criminal acts and escalate the assault against the justice delivery system in future cases which are not to the liking of particular individuals and/or sectors of society.

The harassment of Kwaramba and Shava also makes a mockery of Magistrate Pabwe’s security guarantees which he pledged last week in response to Petras’ letter.

Magistrate Pabwe had on Thursday 27 October 2011, assured Petras of some security guarantees for her lawyers to represent their clients when trial commences on Monday 31 October 2011. The Resident Magistrate had also undertaken to carry out a vetting exercise for all civilians entering the court house.

Post published in: Politics

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