The case of two political prisoners, who spent nearly nine years at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, for a crime they never committed is yet another stain on Zimbabwe’s judicial system, which has of late come under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere were jailed in 2016 after then High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu convicted them of allegedly murdering a Zimbabwe Republic Police officer.
They were sentenced to serve 20 years for a crime they never committed.
Maengahama and Madzokere were the remaining political prisoners from the group that was arrested for allegedly killing, Petros Mutedza after their co-accused Yvonne Musarurwa was released from jail last year following a presidential pardon.
Phinias Nhatarikwa, who was convicted as an accessory after the fact to public violence, was fined $500.
On Friday, Supreme Court judges Justice Rita Makarau, Justice Susan Mavangira and Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza set aside Bhunu’s controversial judgement and ordered the immediate release of Maengahama and Madzokere from prison.
The judges agreed with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights members Beatrice Mtetwa and Charles Kwaramba, who represented the MDC activists, that Bhunu erred and misdirected himself when he failed to properly apply the law and discharge the four “as he was obliged to at the close of the state case when no evidence justifying their placement on their defence had been led and in doing so denied them a fair trial.”
What is more scandalous is the inordinate delays in handling the activists’ appeal by the courts.
Their appeal was heard in March last year and the judgement was delivered after a very long 15 months. It also took several years for the appeal itself to be heard after it was filed at the Supreme Court.
The victims have already served sentences for crimes they never committed and the damage done to their lives and families is irreversible.
It is a classic case of justice delayed being justice denied.
Zimbabwe’s justice system needs to use the case of the political prisoners to reflect on the service it is delivering vis-a-vis its constitutional mandate.
The self-introspection by the judges could be the only way to restore dignity in the country’s justice system, which has in recent months been tainted by undue political influence.
It is possible that there are scores of other Zimbabweans that are languishing in the hell holes that are our prisons for crimes they never committed.
Some were just thrown into jail for supporting the opposition or for being government critics. The principle that everyone is equal before the law must be respected.