Tsvangirai lawyers off the hook

via Tsvangirai lawyers off the hook January 24, 2014 NewsDay

THE Supreme Court yesterday ruled that High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu had erred and misdirected himself when he recommended the prosecution of human rights lawyers over an alleged criticism of judicial officers.

This was after MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s lawyers Advocate Lewis Uriri, Tarisai Mutangi and Alec Muchadehama had filed two urgent chamber applications in the Electoral Court seeking access to some voting materials to prove alleged electoral fraud in the July 31 elections which were won by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

In a judgment delivered on August 20, 2013, Justice Bhunu ordered the prosecution of the former prime minister’s lawyers “for bringing the integrity of the judiciary into disrepute”. Tsvangirai later withdrew his presidential election petition citing reservations over some judges whom he alleged were not independent from the executive.

Justice Bhunu not only dismissed Tsvangirai’s request to be furnished with some election and voting materials, but launched an attack on the MDC-T leader describing him as someone of an “unbalanced” mindset.

He also went on to urge the country’s prosecuting authorities to act against his lawyers.

The judge had claimed that the lawyers had acted unethically after they sought to rely on an MDC-T dossier criticising the judiciary and recommended that the “errant” lawyers be “reigned in” for bringing the “court’s integrity into disrepute”.

He advised the Registrar of the High Court to serve a copy on the then Attorney-General (AG) Johannes Tomana “for appropriate action according to the law”.

But Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, sitting with judges of appeal, justices Paddington Garwe and Ben Hlatshwayo, who yesterday heard Tsvangirai’s appeal against Bhunu’s judgment, set aside the part of the High Court order in which Justice Bhunu had recommended the prosecution of the lawyers.

The Supreme Court said according to the court procedure Justice Bhunu should not have given a determination on a matter which he had ruled as being not urgent.

“Once a court gives a decision that the matter is not urgent, the law requires that the matter be referred to the registrar for set-down and to be heard before another judge,” Justice Malaba said.

Part of the Supreme Court order reads: “The appeal against the judgment of the court aquo succeeds with no order as to costs to the extent that the part of the order referring the allegedly contemptuous order of appellant and his legal practitioners, who represented him in the application with the court aquo, to be referred to AG for investigations and the part of the order directing the appellant and the legal practitioners to pay costs, be and is hereby set aside.

“Order of the court aquo is amended to read; the application in case number EC27/13 and EC28/13 are not urgent and are accordingly removed from the roll with costs on the ordinary scale.”

In his application, Tsvangirai had cited Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau, chief elections officer Lovemore Sekeramayi, Zec, Registrar-General of Voters Tobaiwa Mudede and President Robert Mugabe as respondents.

These were being represented by Tawanda Kanengoni, Charles Nyika, Chandavengerwa Chipamba and Advocate Terence Hussein.