Justice delayed: Supreme Court resumes

The Supreme Court and High Court resumed on Monday after a six week break. Numerous unfinished cases of public interest await its attention. These include:

Munyaradzi Gwisai
Munyaradzi Gwisai

State v Munyaradzi Gwisai and 5 Others – the Arab Spring Video Case In Court Watch 2/2012 in

February and Court Watch 5/2012 of 14th March, this trial was covered up to the end of the defence case, with the magistrate due to deliver judgment on 19th March.

Case Reminder: In February 2011 a meeting was arranged by an International Socialist Organisation branch to watch videos and discuss the implications of popular demonstrations in North Africa. Police arrived; 45 persons were arrested, taken to court and remanded in custody on treason charges.

In March 2011, 39 of them were freed for insufficient evidence. Gwisai and five others continued in custody on the treason charge, but were granted bail later in March by a judge. In April the State reduced the charge to inciting, alternatively conspiring, to commit public violence.

The trial in the magistrates court started on 14th September and proceeded with many interruptions to March 19, when the magistrate found all five accused guilty of conspiracy to commit public violence. Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama argued that the appropriate sentence would be a fine of not more than $500, and the prosecutor asked for the maximum prison sentence of 10 years. On 21st March the magistrate sentenced each of the accused to: two years in prison, wholly suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour; and a $500 fine or, in default of payment, 30 days’ imprisonment; and 420 hours of community service to be performed at schools in Harare, starting on 31st March.

The defence lodged an appeal to the High Court against both the conviction and the sentence. The State lodged a cross-appeal against the sentence, asserting that it was too lenient. The two appeals will be heard together on a date to be fixed.

State v Douglas Mwonzora, MP and 21 Others – Charged with Public Violence

After an MDC-T rally in Nyanga,Mwonzora and his co-accused were arrested and detained in February 2011, on allegations of public violence. Their release on bail was delayed until March 12, 2011 by the State’s use of section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and its subsequent unsuccessful appeal.

At a later remand hearing the magistrate granted a defence request to refer constitutional issues [complaints of inhuman and degrading treatment, violation of constitutional rights to liberty and protection of the law, and the unconstitutionality of section 121(3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act] to the Supreme Court. The State’s attempt to have the trial started in spite of this referral to the Supreme Court was rejected by the magistrate and the State then appealed to the High Court for that decision to be overturned.

On January 26, at a routine remand hearing, the Nyanga magistrate granted a defence application for the refusal of further remand. This was not an acquittal. It simply meant that the accused would no longer have to make periodic appearances in court for remand hearings while waiting for the outcome of the High Court and Supreme Court appeals arising from the case.

If, as a result of these appeals, the prosecution gets a green light to proceed with the public violence case, it would have to revive it by issuing summonses.

The accused are at liberty but still have the possibility of future prosecution hanging over them, depending on the Supreme Court’s decision on the defence’s constitutional issues and on the outcome of the State’s appeal to the High Court to have the criminal case heard without waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court case.

State v Solomon Madzore and 28 others: the Glen View 29 murder case

In May 2011 Police Inspector Mutedza died as a result of injuries received in a scuffle with members of the public at Glen View 3 shopping centre. Seeming to ignore eye-witness accounts, police carried out a blitz, arresting 29 MDC-T members and officials – 26 from May to

September, with 2 more arrests in October and one in January 2012. At various bail hearings 27 accused were released on bail but one of them was later remanded in custody on an unrelated charge; 7 of them endured nearly 9 months in prison before release. Solomon Madzore, the MDC-T Youth Assembly chairperson, and Paul Rukanda, a district party office-holder, were refused bail. On 1st March all were committed for trial when the indictment charging them with Mutedza’s murder was served on them at the magistrates court. The committal for trial resulted in all of them being returned to custody in remand prison – even those previously released on bail.

The defence outline was lodged on Monday 30th April. The defence team is now ready for the trial to begin. On 22nd March Justice Bhunu heard defence and prosecution submissions on a defence application for renewal of bail for the 27 accused who had been granted bail before committal for trial on 1st March, and on a separate bail application for Solomon Madzore and Paul Rukanda, who had all along been denied bail.

The State maintained its opposition to bail on the grounds that the accused are a flight risk. The judge reserved judgement indefinitely, pending lodging of the defence outline. As this was tantamount to a refusal of bail, the defence team applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court for bail; but there has been no decision from Justice Bhunu on this application either.

The accused are being held in custody in remand prison, waiting for the start of their trial – and for the judge’s decision on their bail applications.

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