This is the situation facing alleged female rapists Rosemary Chakwizira (28) and two sisters, Sophie (26) and Netsayi Nhokwara (24).
The three together with a male counterpart, Thulani Ngwenya (24), were arrested on October 11 along the Lower Gweru road after having been found with used condoms. Seventeen counts of aggravated indecent assault were levelled against them on grounds that they used the contraceptives in raping male hitch-hikers along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.
Their trial date has been postponed six times since November at the request of the state led by prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema.
“The state knows the women did not commit the crimes but they just can’t withdraw the case,” said Dumisani Mtombeni, the women’s lawyer.
He accused the state of denying him important documents.
“The normal procedure is that as the defence lawyer I should be given documents like charge sheets and the state outline of the case. However all my efforts to obtain those papers have hit a brick wall,” said Mtombeni.
He convinced presiding magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini to relax bail conditions – another example pointing to his clients’ innocence.
“The Toyota Chaser which was impounded by police at the scenewas ordered to be given back to the ladies by the magistrate. Reporting conditions were also scrapped. Even the magistrate suspects there is no case for us to answer,” said the barrister.
Human rights and gender groups told The Zimbabwean the case was a travesty of justice.
“Those women suffered character assassination when the media went to town negatively publicising their case. The world is watching us and it would be good for our justice system to kick-start the trial and put the case to rest,” said Vimbai Nhutsve-Musengi, local coordinator of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations.
“Men rape women on a daily basis but we have never seen a single case becoming a national issue or failing to be tried at the courts. But the case on ladies whom I belief are innocent, has been stalled for half a year now. It is time the Government acted strongly on gender fairness,” said Florence Guzha, secretary of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe.
Paul Juru, Coordinator for the Padare/ Enkudleni/ Men’s forum on Gender, added his voice calling on other pressure groups to lobby for just settlement of the case.Post published in: News