Supreme Court hears villagers' case

HARARE - The Supreme Court will on Thursday hear a case in which Nyanga North MP Douglas Mwonzora and 32 other people brutalised by state agents are challenging the constitutionality of their charges.

Mwonzora and the 32 villagers, all from his constituency, were arrested and detained in filthy cells in Nyanga and Mutare on assault charges last year in February, yet they had been victims of harassment by Zanu PF youths.

They now want charges to be dropped, arguing that the arrest, detention and general harassment they suffered at the hands of the police violated their constitutional rights.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer Jeremiah Bamu, who is representing the 33, wants the Supreme Court’s Full Bench to determine whether or not the assaults, torture and denial of medical attention to their clients constitute inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Section 15 (1) of the Constitution.

Bamu wants the Supreme Court-sitting as a Constitutional Court to determine whether or not the raising of the notorious Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) (Chapter 9:07) against their clients denied them their protection of the law and infringed on their right to liberty in a manner that is not reasonably justified in a democratic society.

Further, he wants the court to determine whether or not in raising Section 121 (3) of the CPEA, the State acted with bad faith and thereby contravening Section 18 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

Mwonzora and the villagers were in January this year removed from remand at the Nyanga Magistrates Court pending final determination by the Supreme Court.

This was after Nyanga Magistrate Ignatio Mhene had granted an application seeking a referral of their matter to the Supreme Court to determine the violation of several of their constitutional rights.

Mwonzora and the Nyanga residents argue that their rights to liberty, protection of the law and protection from inhuman and degrading treatment as enshrined in the Constitution were violated when they were arrested, abducted and detained in filthy police and prison cells in Nyanga and Mutare respectively.

Police did not inform any of the residents of the reasons of arrest and/or detention as soon as was reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

One of them, 82-year-old Rwisai Nyakauru, succumbed to the torture and passed away in April last year.

In his ruling Magistrate Mhene upheld that the application for referral of the matter to the Supreme Court was not frivolous or vexatious as claimed by State prosecutor Tirivanhu Mutyasira, who had opposed the application filed by Bamu and David Tandiri of Tandiri Law Chambers, who is a member of ZLHR. — Legal Monitor

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