State refuses to withdraw charges against Lumumba

HARARE - The State yesterday indicated that former Zanu PF youth leader William Mutumanje — popularly known as Acie Lumumba — was still going to stand trial even after prosecutors dropped charges of insulting President Robert Mugabe against him in the Constitutional Court (Con-Court).

Mutumanje appeared before Harare magistrate Nomsa Sabarauta yesterday represented by David Hofisi anticipating a withdrawal of the case as agreed during a Con-Court hearing on May 24.

Mutumanje’s case was referred to the Con-Court after he argued that his constitutional right to freedom of expression had been trampled on when he was charged under section 33 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) for the alleged presidential insult. Lumumba’s lawyers insisted this was fair comment.

Lumumba became a free man after the State indicated that it intends to withdraw his charges before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.

Lumumba’s lawyer Zvikomborero Chadambuka told the full Con-Court bench led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba that the State did not wish to proceed with the case.

“The State has advised us that they intend to withdraw the charges in the lower court and we have agreed, subject to the court’s discretion that the matter be removed from the roll,” Chadambuka said.

Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba confirmed the withdrawal, before Chadambuka withdrew the application.

“I do confirm the position as indicated by the applicant’s counsel. The applicant (Lumumba) will be appearing at the magistrates’ court on the 12th of June and by then, we would have communicated our position.

“The decision is being propelled by the Mwonzora case which was brought to our attention…,” Nyazamba said.

MDC secretary general Douglas Mwonzora was in 2015 cleared of any wrongdoing following allegations that he called Mugabe a goblin under similar charges faced by Lumumba.

Prosecutor Venancia Mutake yesterday applied for the matter to be remanded to July 18 pending trial preparations.

Hofisi responded with an application for refusal of further remand and slammed the State for being “unprofessional and unethical, and there was no way that the accused person could agree to a trial date on such circumstances.”

“It is patently unjust and now requires a chamber application for reinstatement by the accused person on basis that the State was not candid with the court . . . an application to hold the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in contempt of court and an action to recover costs from them,” Hofisi said.

“Today the accused person attended at court expecting the State to hold to its own word and had already booked a flight to South Africa anticipating the end of this matter. However, the State informed me there has been no such communication from NPA.

“This is treacherous and is indicative of institutional insincerity and absence of due regard of the proper administration of justice. On the face of it, securing a withdrawal of a court application on an undertaking which is not honoured shows no respect for the courts.”

Hofisi further urged the court not to entertain the State’s application arguing “they had deceived the accused person by committing to do one thing and proceeding to do another”.   

Hofisi and Mutumanje had approached NPA yesterday morning and were attended by Justin Uladi — Nyazamba’s supervisor who advised them that the State now wanted to argue the constitutional matter.

“The State here is saying they want to pursue trial. Either their house is not in order or prosecution is deliberately sending mixed signals and this is resulting in real prejudice on the accused person,” Hofisi added.

The hearing will continue today after the State was ordered to get proper communication on how they intend to proceed.

“Your response is not adequate for me to make a ruling. This is a court of record and counsel raised many issues which State has not responded to,” Sabarauta addressed the State.

Charges against Lumumba arose on June 30 last year, when he was launching his political outfit Viva Zimbabwe at a Harare hotel.

During his address, Lumumba — referring to Mugabe — reportedly said: “you have not been insulted, you are only insulted by protesters”.

“...Mugabe f**k you, I am drawing the red line, our kids are in trouble so, it’s a red line . . . and my name is Lumumba, Lumumba, Lumumba . . . ,” the court heard.

Lumumba had defended his utterances saying they were a dramatic way of expressing his displeasure at how Mugabe has run down the country.

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