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Lawyers take police commissioner to court

Orirando Manwere

THE High Court is set to hear an application by the Law Society of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and seven individual lawyers seeking an

order prohibiting the Commissioner of Police and members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police from hindering legal practitioners from gaining access to their clients and carrying out their lawful duties.

The applicants are, among other things, are also seeking an order that Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri should cause an investigation to be conducted into the criminal conduct of members of the ZRP who earlier this year assaulted lawyers in the course of their duties and were contemptuous of court orders.

The two bodies are also seeking a declaration of rights due to lawyers under domestic and international law which they allege were violated by the ZRP.

Chihuri and Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi are cited as first and second respondents respectively in the application filed by Sternford Moyo of Scanlen & Holderness on behalf of the two bodies and seven lawyers who were allegedly assaulted by the police.

The respondents failed to file opposing papers within the time provided for in the rules of the High Court and were consequently barred.

This meant that they could not be heard by the court except in an application to lift the bar.

The applicants then set the matter down for a default judgment on September 12 but the respondents on that day filed an application for removal of the bar.

Moyo said the matter was thus postponed by consent to allow for the application for removal of the bar to be considered after which the respondents would file their opposition papers to allow for the matter to be argued on its merits.

He said the High Court was yet to set a date to hear the arguments and he was also yet to receive the opposition papers from the respondents.

The court application arises from the alleged assault of lawyers by police in March and May this year.

According to court papers to hand, lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Colin Kahuni, Tinoziva Bere, Mordecai Pilate Mahlangu, and Peter Carnegie Lloyd were assaulted following a peaceful demonstration to protest against the alleged earlier assault on fellow lawyers Alec Muchadehama, Andrew Makoni and Harrison Nkomo by police while in the course of carrying out their duties.

On March 13, Makoni served a court order at the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department’s Law and Order Section where one Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Mabunda is alleged to have contemptuously torn the court order into pieces, squeezed the pieces into a ball and threw it at his face.

Mabunda allegedly further threatened Makoni.

On March 11, Nkomo was allegedly assaulted with a baton stick by police officers at Machipisa police station in Harare where he had gone to enquire about the whereabouts of his clients — members of the Movement for Democratic Change who had been arrested.

This prompted other lawyers to meet outside the High Court building along Samora Machel Avenue on May 8 to discuss the arrest of their counterparts.

While at that meeting, they were ordered by members of the ZRP to disperse.

As they dispersed, a number of them were assaulted.

A group of lawyers, including Mtetwa, the President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, were unlawfully bundled into a truck, taken to an open place in Eastlea, ordered to lie on their stomachs and were severely assaulted.

A number of them sustained serious injuries necessitating treatment at a Harare hospital.

In the founding affidavit the applicants argued that the ZRP does not acknowledge its obligation to ensure that lawyers are able to discharge their functions and assemble and associate without physical attacks, harassment and intimidation.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police does not appreciate or accept the right of members of the Law Society, as a professional body, to collective freedom of expression and assembly, particularly the right to gather and discuss the law, administration of justice and the promotion advancement and protection of human rights.

“Members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police do not appreciate or accept that they are not entitled to regulate or disperse meetings of the Law Society of Zimbabwe, a professional body incorporated in terms of an Act of Parliament,” reads part of the affidavit.

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