Zimbabwe Judge slams biased prosecutors

A Zimbabwean High Court judge has sternly reprimanded the Attorney General’s office (AG) for its continued invocation of Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act in cases where a magistrate would have granted bail.

Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, in a ruling where the AG opposed bail to Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) employees, said unjustified invocation of Section 121 brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

“The abuse of Section 121 to keep persons in custody who have been granted bail has tended to bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” read the full judgement released on Tuesday.

“It must be discouraged by all means and the time has come to announce to law officers prosecuting on behalf of the Attorney General that Section 121 should be invoked only in those situations where there is merit in appeal.

MMPZ employees, Fadzai December, Molly Chimhanda and Gilbert Mabusa were in December arrested for contravening the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and were granted bail by a magistrate’s court.

The State, however, invoked Section 121 meaning they had to spend seven more days in jail.

But Justice Mathonsi said the grounds of appeal were “spectacularly without merit” and “legendary by their lack of merit”.

“Persons who have been properly granted bail should not be kept in custody merely as a way of punishment,” the judge continued. “That is an improper exercise in the discretion given to the Attorney General by Section 121.”

The judge castigated officers from the AG’s office for invoking Section 121 without applying their minds.

Political activists have been at the receiving end of actions by prosecutors using the section.

In most cases they are acquitted of the charges even after spending seven days following the invocation of the section.

AG Johannes Tomana does not hide that he is a Zanu (PF) supporter leading to calls by President Mugabe’s opponents for him to step down.

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