Zimbabwe’s chief prosecutor has ordered police to investigate lawyers for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for contempt of court over criticism of judges in a court petition that they filed, a state daily reported.
“All we are doing is checking to see whether an offence was committed,” The Herald quoted Attorney General Johannes Tomana as saying.
Tomana’s statement came after electoral court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu ordered that Tsvangirai’s lawyers be prosecuted for contempt of court for the criticism of senior judges contained in a court filing by Tsvangirai.
“The case has been referred appropriately to an institution with the mandate to investigate and we will be guided by their investigations,” said Tomana.
In a petition seeking the release of voting materials to prove alleged electoral fraud in the July 31 polls, Tsvangirai expressed reservations over senior judges who he said were too close to veteran President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
But Judge Bhunu threw out Tsvangirai’s petition and ordered the prosecution of his lawyers “for bringing the integrity of the judiciary into disrepute.”
Tsvangirai appealed to the courts after he was beaten at the ballot by Mugabe. The 89-year-old Mugabe took the vote with 61 percent of the ballots, against Tsvangirai’s 34.
Among a series of complaints, the opposition leader queried the suspiciously high number of voters who were turned away from polling stations in urban areas, which are considered opposition strongholds.
He also charged that his party’s supporters in rural areas were intimidated by Mugabe party backers into feigning illiteracy and voting with the aid of police and election officers.
But in a surprise U-turn, he later withdrew his case that challenged Mugabe’s victory, saying he would not get a fair hearing as the courts had frustrated his efforts to access election materials he wanted to use as evidence.
The constitutional court went ahead and handed down a ruling in the case nonetheless, declaring Mugabe the official winner of the election.