Mtetwa remanded in police custody until April
By Violet Gonda
Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has again been denied bail and will
remain in custody until April 3rd. Four MDC-T officials, including Prime
Minister Tsvangirai’s legal advisor Thabani Mpofu, who were arrested at the
same time as Mtetwa, have also been remanded in custody to next month.
Harare provincial magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa dismissed the human
rights lawyer’s bail application on Wednesday even though the High Court had
ordered her release on Monday.
Gofa said Mtetwa would interfere with police investigations if freed on
bail, although one of her lawyers, advocate Thabani Mpofu (same name with
accused MDC official) had offered to surrender title deeds to one of Mtetwa’s
properties. Mpofu said his client was a suitable candidate for bail as she
had not committed an offence and had no criminal record to induce her to
flee. The lawyers will appeal in the High Court for her release.
Mtetwa was arrested while attending to her clients – Mpofu, Felix Matsinde,
Mehluli Tshuma and councillor Warship Dumba , who are being charged with
contravening a section the Official Secrets Act for allegedly receiving or
communicating secret information; and sections of the Criminal Law
Codification and Reform Act for alleged impersonation and for possession of
articles for criminal use.
They are being accused of running an NGO and impersonating police officers
in order to compile corruption and criminal dossiers against government
officials, such as Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney
General Johannes Tomana.
Mtetwa is being accused of obstructing the course of justice by insulting
and shouting at police officers who were raiding her clients’ premises
without a search warrant. But many shocked Zimbabweans took to twitter and
Facebook to register their ‘disgust’ at the latest developments saying ‘only
in Zimbabwe is a person denied bail for insulting police officers’,
especially when a higher court had ordered the lawyer’s release.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Mtetwa had been ill-treated and
humiliated in police custody on Monday. The group said two male police
officers “entered her detention cell at Rhodesville Police Station in the
dead of the night and attempted to remove some blankets that covered her.”
Mtetwa’s lawyers protested that the police had not allowed Mtetwa to take a
bath while in police custody and also denied her relatives and lawyers
access to her.
Speculation is rife that the feisty lawyer is being punished because of the
work she does defending rights activists, journalists and political
opponents. She has over the years been the chief defence counsel for many
activists and it is suggested that this is part of a grand plan to stall her
efforts. She is known to speak frankly and is not intimidated by the
powerful state machinery when defending her clients, to such an extent that
she is respected by judges and lawyers alike.
Mutare lawyer Tinoziva Bere said he is disappointed by the latest
developments but is not surprised, as similar cases have happened in the
past, as in the case of MDC minister and lawyer Eric Matinenga, who spent
two week in jail in 2008 after the magistrate disobeyed two High Court
He told SW Radio Africa: “This is to punish her beyond any proportion to
whatever wrongs she might have done and they will continue for as long as
they want. They did it with Farai Maguwu. Remember he was kept in jail for
so long and afterwards he was found guilty of nothing. That’s Zimbabwe for
He said the state won’t release her until they are satisfied they have
punished her enough.
These arrests took place a day after the nation voted overwhelmingly for a
new constitution and concerns have been raised about the fact that it does
not matter how good a constitution is, if the people in power decide to
Lawyer Brighton Mutebuka said Mtetwa’s continued incarceration, in defiance
of a High Court order, only serves to emphasise the fact that not enough
reforms have taken place to justify an election.
Bere said a new constitution will not change the failure of institutions of
governments in this country. “It is the change in the institutions of
government which professionalizes them and makes them independent and free
from partisan politics. It is only that which will transform this country.”
“So I am not excited about a new constitution. I am proud that I did not
participate in that sham. I know that it is not just a piece of paper which
will transform Zimbabwe,” Bere added.
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