long walk to freedom

As Christians prepared celebrations of the death and resurrection of their Messiah, there was “grief” on 29 Glen View residents facing murder charges after the High Court refused to consider their bail application until they have pleaded to the charge.

Rebecca Mafikeni and Yvonne Musarurwa
Rebecca Mafikeni and Yvonne Musarurwa

“I can’t believe I will have Easter (holidays) in the cells,” said one of them as they were being asked to leave the courtroom by Zimbabwe Prison Services. Justice Chinembiri Bhunu said he would not entertain their bail application until they have pleaded to the charge of murdering Petros Mutedza, a police inspector, who was stoned to death in a beer hall brawl in May last year in Glen View.

Their lawyer Charles Kwaramba immediately made an application for leave to appeal against Justice Bhunu’s ruling.

“The abeyance has caused grief,” said Kwaramba as he started the application which continues next week after Edmore Nyazamba from the Attorney General’s Office refused to immediately respond to the application.

“I will have responded by Tuesday or Wednesday I need to look at the ruling,” he insisted despite pleas from the defence team led by Kwaramba- to have a brief adjournment to allow the AG’s office to respond.

Kwaramba wants the Supreme Court to order Justice Bhunu to entertain the 29’s bail application. All of the 29 barring a few were on bail until March 1 when they were committed to prison when the State said it was ready for trial.

In his ruling Justice Bhunu said he would only be able to determine if the State case was strong or not after the defence has filed pleas and defence outlines.

“The accused wish that this issue be interrogated by the Supreme Court. In refusing bail, the court applied the wrong principle. We want a second judiciary opinion on the matter. It is part of the right to be heard. The accused are not asking for too much,” said Kwaramba as he wrapped up his application for leave to appeal against Justice Bhunu’s ruling.

“It is a matter deserving review by a higher court. The court has ploughed new grounds in making the determination it has made,” he said making a reference to Justice Bhunu’s assertion that the bail hearing could only be heard after the 29 have pleaded.

The 29 sat attentively as Justice Bhunu read his ruling. Some shook their heads in disbelief. But as they left the court they broke into the song “Tiri pachirangano,” led by Glen View MP Paul Madzore, whose young brother Solomon is among the 29 facing murder charges.

The arrest of the 29 attracted international condemnation after they came to court with cuts, bruises and swollen faces while others were limping claiming that they had been assaulted while in police custody.

Their lawyers argue that the suspects were arrested purely on political grounds as the arrests targeted mostly supporters and officials of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

While in remand prison they have complained of being ill-treated. Earlier this year when they were released Yvonne Musarurwa and Rebecca Mafukeni told The Legal Monitor that they were confined in a dingy cell for more than 23 hours a day.

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