Judge Bhunu under fire for call to arrest Tsvangirai’s lawyers

High court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu’s stinging rebuke of lawyers representing the outgoing Prime Minister, and a call for their arrest, is a dangerous decision. Exiled human rights lawyer, Gabriel Shumba, said it may also worsen human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa from Johannesburg, Shumba said Bhunu’s remarks are a troubling legal throwback. He added that the judge’s comments reinforce the often repeated statements that the judiciary is compromised and failing to protect constitutional and human rights.

‘Rather than assuaging the political tension, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened tensions. Rather than constraining militarisation and protecting minority rights, some judges have entrenched favoured allies and punished their foes,’ Shumba said.

Tsvangirai’s lawyers face prosecution for contempt of court, following statements made by the outgoing Prime Minister in his Electoral Court application, questioning the integrity of the judiciary. The lawyers representing Tsvangirai are Lewis Uriri, Alec Muchadehama and Tarisai Mutangi. Bhunu said that the statements brought the court’s integrity into disrepute.

The MDC-T last week filed a Constitutional Court application, seeking to nullify the election result, but later withdrew the petition citing the politicized bench.

The MDC-T issued a statement Wednesday criticizing attempts to arrest the Premier’s lawyers, describing the move as unfortunate and seriously putting to question the credibility and impartiality of the judiciary system.

The judiciary, said Shumba, should learn to tolerate ‘sharp criticism’ and be able to put up with it, correct mistakes if it has committed them and avoid them if it has not.

‘His comments and suggestions that Tsvangirai’s lawyers be arrested will be construed as pandering to wishes and whims of another party to the detriment of another.

‘The only reason they’re not mentioning Tsvangirai by name is the realization that SADC has not yet released it full report on the fairness of the poll. But through the judiciary, Mugabe is firing warning shots and testing waters by advocating for the arrests of the lawyers,’ Shumba added. – SW Radio Africa

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