ZLHR protests crass travesty of justice as school head’s assault trial is stalled



HUMAN rights lawyers have protested against a crass travesty of justice in a case in which the trial of a school headmaster for assaulting a person with disability, was halted for close to one year because of an alleged failure to secure a sign language interpreter to assist in trial proceedings.

In a complaint letter written and delivered to the Resident Magistrate at Mutoko Magistrates Court on 24 January 2024, Kelvin Kabaya and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights protested that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had in March 2023 withdrawn charges preferred before plea against Tendayi Nyambuya, the Headmaster at Kachimana Primary School in Mudzi in Mashonaland East province, who had been scheduled to stand trial answering to charges of assault as defined in section 89 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Nyambuya assaulted Karota, who was one of the people who were in attendance at a School Development Committee meeting held at Kachimani Primary School, where the school head had an altercation with a fellow teacher during the meeting in the presence of parents and guardians.

Karota was reportedly shoved by Nyambuya and fell on the ground resulting in him sustaining an injury on his hand.

Kabaya and Chinopfukutwa complained about the withdrawal of the charges before the plea, by the NPA, whose prosecutors argued, was meant to enable the Magistrate to secure an interpreter to assist Kudzanayi Karota, the complainant in the matter, who suffers from a speech impairment.

The human rights lawyers charged that since the withdrawal of the charges and the stoppage of the assault trial in March 2023, the matter has not been re-enrolled and an interpreter has not been appointed for purposes of commencement of the trial of Nyambuya.

Kabaya and Chinopfukutwa protested that the inordinate delay in the commencement of the trial of Nyambuya violates Karota’s right to equal protection and benefit of the law and the right to access to the courts as provided for in section 56 and 69 of the Constitution.

The human rights lawyers asked the Resident Magistrate to take immediate steps to appoint a requisite interpreter to facilitate the commencement of Nyambuya’s trial.

Kabaya and Chinopfukutwa asked the Resident Magistrate to bear in mind the individualised needs of Karota so as to ensure that she will be able to understand and follow court proceedings due to the unique nature of her disability.

The lawyers asked the Regional Magistrate to consider invoking the provisions of section 319A-H of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which entails appointing an intermediary or support person for Karota, for purposes of trial and to also consider an expert assessment in order to ascertain the nature and extent of her impairment, the nature and extent of her communication skills, and how to maximise effective communication with the court.

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