Opposition MDC Alliance MP Joana Mamombe remains in prison together with two-party colleagues after being denied bail.
This after they were arrested for allegedly filing a false abduction police report, claiming they had been abducted, s..ex..ually assaulted and tortured by suspected state security agents.
The authorities have attempted to discredit their claims but face an uphill propaganda battle after previously blocking the prosecution of an AK47-weilding 10-man torture gang of police, intelligence and military agents that were arrested after attacking and robbing a shebeen and its patrons in Mbare. One of the accused agents, one Seregeant Wellington Mushosho, told investigators that he had been operating under instruction from his superiors to “harass MDC members” following the January 2019 fuel protests. He was directly threatening to expose the system. Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi promptly withdrew the charges.
Given such a clear coverup, which is not unknown to judicial officers, one would think the courts would give the benefit of doubt to individuals who claim to have been abducted and tortured. Quite the opposite. Earlier this week the MDC Alliance trio was denied bail by Harare Magistrate Bianca Makwande (pictured) who concluded that their actions had caused harm to Zimbabwe’s economy. She added that they faced a substantial prison sentence and would therefore likely abscond.
It is worth noting that this magistrate was previously criticised by Harare High Court judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi in 2018 after she denied a businessman bail despite the prosecution having consented to it. The decision was overturned. Makwande had clearly made the inexplicable decision under the influence of a force not party to the proceedings.
During this same week, three NatPharm bosses implicated in multimillion-dollar procurement fraud involving Drax International were released on bail without incident. Going by Makwande’s standard: their actions were clearly detrimental to the economy; they face a lengthy prison sentence if convicted and have good reason to abscond. Yet they were granted bail, as they should have been despite those considerations. Or is it the case that the court does not believe they are at risk of lengthy imprisonment? Are these arrests merely a ruse to placate public anger?
Something has clearly gone wrong with the justice system and the capture of certain judicial offers must be confronted head on. Lawyers must take a moral position on this issue and refuse to be heard in courts presided over by judicial officers such as Makwande, whose repeated acts of bias pose a grave threat to justice.
The Law Society must have the courage to lead if we are to peacefully stop this cancer, which is tearing away at justice before our eyes. There is every basis to advise clients to ask for recusal in cases were the magistrate has previously been reprimanded by a superior court yet persists in that behaviour to the extent that a pattern of bias is established.
Our society is generally deferential to authority and this has been abused by the ruling elites to contort the justice system against opponents without arousing any direct or public criticism. This means there is absolutely no cost to the facilitating magistrates. Judicial officers that allow themselves to be used in this manner are fair game for peaceful and lawful retaliation. It cannot be proper that even routine bail applications involving opposition members end up in the High Court because a few hanging magistrates are captured by the ruling Zanu PF. Is there not a cause?
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