LSZ condemns lawyers’ arrest
Sindiso Mhlophe and Jeffrey Muvundusi
This comes as six lawyers namely, Patrick Tererai, Dumisani Dube, Choice Damiso, Tapiwa Makanza and Joshua Chirambwe, have been arrested in the past week mostly facing charges of obstruction of justice.
The LSZ said while lawyers could be arrested like everyone else, the recent arrests of the lawyers seem to be emanating from the practitioners being associated with the causes of their clients and are meant to hinder them from undertaking their professional duties.
“The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) is concerned by the arrest of lawyers Tererai, Dube, Damiso — subsequently released after being turned into State witness — Makanza and Chirambwe. Over the past few days, the arrest of members of the legal profession has become quite a common feature.
“One of our functions as a regulator of the legal profession is to ensure that members are conducting themselves ethically and professionally and as such matters like this should ordinarily be brought to our attention. However, despite some of the alleged cases having occurred over a year ago, we have not yet received any complaint from members of the public, the police or from the courts
“… A review of the recent arrests shows a disturbing pattern of intimidation harassment of lawyers and associating lawyers with the causes of their clients,” LSZ said.
LSZ indicated that Damiso, Chirambwe and Makaza are being accused of defeating or obstructing the course of justice as accomplices to prominent lawyer Thabani Mpofu, who is facing up to 20 years’ imprisonment for defeating the course of justice among other charges.
“Tererai of Tererai Legal Practice was manhandled and later detained overnight by police officers at Beitbridge Police Station after attending to his client at the police station and was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct.
“Dumisani Dube of Mathonsi-Ncube Law Chambers was arrested and taken to court on the 6th of June 2020, where he was granted bail to the sum of $5 000. He is being accused of defeating or obstructing justice in that he is alleged to have filed a fake certificate of service and obtained judgment in favour of his client,” LSZ said.
LSZ further said Dube’s case should have been investigated without incarcerating him while the arrest of the other two lawyers were merely linked to the performance of their duties as legal practitioners.
“The sudden arrest of these lawyers therefore raises the inescapable view that the lawyers are being associated with the cause of their client. The constitutional application at the centre of these arrests sought to impugn the appointment of the Prosecutor-General by the President. In this regard, we are apprehensive because the arrests appear to be calculated and harassing lawyers in the course of their duties.
“The law society accordingly condemns the continued systematic harassment and intimidation of lawyers in the course of their work. Such actions undermine the rule of law and the administration of justice in Zimbabwe,” LSZ said.
Meanwhile, dethroned Ntabazinduna Chief Nhlanhla Ndiweni has described the arrest of his lawyer Dube, as an attempt by the government to muzzle human rights lawyers.
Dube, who is representing Ndiweni in his fight with his brother Joram for the Ntabazinduna chieftainship, was dragged to court on charges of allegedly fraudulently obtaining a default judgment for his client at the High Court.
Bulawayo magistrate Shepherd Mjanja freed Dube on $5 000 bail.
“The principle of rule of law has merely become academic in our country. We cannot have a situation whereupon legal practitioners can no longer carry out their work without fear of being victimised or intimidated.
“I strongly condemn the hijacking of our judiciary system in order to be used for the furtherance of personal vendettas,” Ndiweni said.
Dube, last year secured the release of Ndiweni, who had spent time at Khami Maximum Remand Prison on allegations of malicious damage to property. He had been sentenced to 18 months in jail, in a development that caused an outcry, particularly from activists from the Matabeleland region.
Ndiweni added: “Justice thrives on independence of the judiciary that is why there is a principle called separation of powers.
“The government must desist from using the judiciary to further its own agendas. The government must stop its reign of terror on legal practitioners.”