Zimbabwean govt faces lawsuit over wrongful convictions

June 8, 2021

Opposition political activists Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere who were wrongly convicted for the 2011 murder of a police inspector, Petros Mutedza, say they are considering suing government.

Brenna Matendere

They were talking at a media conference on Monday, 7 May 2021, at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) offices in Harare, in the company of their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.

After their arrest in May 2011, Madzokere and Maengahama were given bail in 2014 by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu on the basis that their trial was taking too long. They were, however, convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 20 years each.

“We are still in the process of resting and reflecting over our unjust incarceration. After that, we will decide whether to sue the state for malicious prosecution, unjust imprisonment and brutal assault,” said Maengahama.

The duo spent three years in remand prison prior to conviction.

Maengahama and Madzokere were arrested in May 2011 together with 27 other suspects after Mutedza was killed in Harare’s Glen View suburb during political protests.

The late Mutedza was leading a police reaction group deployed to the suburb to clear a rally by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters which the law enforces had not authorised.

He allegedly got attacked in mob violence that ensued and died from injuries sustained during the melee.

However last week, Justice Rita Makarau, sitting with Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza and Justice Susan Mavhangira, ruled that Maengahama and Madzokere could not be linked to the murder.

Justice Makarau judged that “no evidence was led to show that the appellants were present with the actual perpetrator when the deceased was felled by the brick that caused the mortal wound.”

She added that, “in the absence of such evidence, the law clearly provided at the material time that the appellants could not be convicted of the murder of the deceased.”

Maengahama revealed harrowing experiences that prisoners go through in prison.

“Our justice delivery system leaves a lot to be desired. From the arresting officers up to the courts, we have political activists masquerading as judicial officers. There is politicisation of cases,” he said.

“If cases were not politicised, a person like me was supposed to be released at the police station because the junior officers had initially decided to do so but when their bosses came, they said because I was a prominent MDC activist, I was supposed to be jailed,” he said.

Maengahama pointed out that the police officers who arrested him and his colleagues were not interested in finding out who had murdered Mutedza but simply wanted to punish them for supporting the opposition MDC.

“They (police) just wanted to extract the political capital they could get from arresting us. So all the people who were involved in our case simply wanted to satisfy certain political interests. It is unfortunate that we have such a judicial system. We need to do something as Zimbabweans,” he said.

Maengahama revealed that while in prison, they were squeezed in a small cell.

His colleague, Madzokere, said: “The numbers of prisoners that are pardoned are very thin and the prisons are overwhelmed. The authorities say the holding capacity of Chikurubi is 17 000.  In essence, the capacity they have in terms of feeding prisoners, providing them with adequate clothing and other essentials is just 1 000,” he said.

He added that the prisoners sometimes used plastic footwear to cover torn prison garb while diets and basic medical care services were scant.

Beatrice Mtetwa who represented the two said the country’s judicial system needed reform.

“We have a scenario where certain political cases are allocated to known magistrates whose modus operandi is known. You would know that for example if a case is allocated to magistrate Nduna, I will never get bail. That can never be called just,” she said.

“There are some magistrates who look at the politics of the case and not the law in the case,” she added. “Unfortunately, this is what we have seen for a long time where the law has been weaponised against opposition members, and where you see persons from the ruling party doing the same things, nothing happens to them.”

Charles Kwaramba, another lawyer who represented Madzokere and Maengahama blamed the police for the conduct in which they handled the case.

“I think the police did a disservice not only to Maengahama and Madzokere, but to the family of the deceased person which ought to have known who killed their relative. After an hour of the murder, the police simply rounded up all known MDC supporters and accused them of the crime without any investigations done whatsoever,” he said.

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