COURT WATCH 4/2012
[9th March 2012]
MDC-T National Youth Assembly president and party activists to be tried for murdering police officer
State v Solomon Madzore and 28 Others
The trial will start this coming Monday, 12th March, in the High Court, Harare
The State accuses them of murdering a police officer, Inspector Petros Mutedza, in May 2011. The accused include Solomon Madzore, MDC-T National Youth president; Last Maengahama, a member of the MDC-T National Council and its National Executive Committee, who is the party’s Secretary for Information Communication Technology Development; and two Harare City councillors, Tungamirai Madzokere and Oddrey Chirombe. [For a complete list of the accused please see end of bulletin.]
Under section 47 of the Criminal Law Code a person convicted of murder must be sentenced to death unless the court considers that there are “extenuating circumstances” or unless he or she was under 18 at the time of the crime. Because magistrates cannot impose the death sentence, all murder trials take place in the High Court.
Witnesses from members of the public and MDC-T officials described the incident leading to Inspector Mutedza’s death. They said that on Sunday 29th May 2011 two policemen, one of them Mutedza, who they said was notorious in the area for harassing vendors and confiscating their wares for his personal advantage, became involved in an argument with a vendor and others drinking in a bar. At Glen View 3 shopping centre. When Mutedza responded by slapping someone, a brawl broke out in which the policemen were getting the worst of it. A group of MDC-T youths having a barbecue nearby came to the rescue of the policemen and stopped further beating, thereby saving the life of Mutedza’s colleague.
The police version was that MDC-T youth activists convened a meeting at the shopping centre without following the required clearance procedures under the Public Order and Security Act [POSA]. Inspector Mutedza was part of a team deployed to the shopping centre to disperse this “illegal” meeting. The officers were attacked with metal chairs and bricks. Inspector Mutedza sustained severe head injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. A second officer was hospitalised with multiple injuries.
Initial arrests Immediately after the incident police started arresting MDC-T activists in the Glen View area. Arrests continued over the next few days. Glen View residents [confirmed by Combined Harare Residents Association] described the area as being like a war zone with an unofficial curfew and scores of armed police harassing and arresting residents indiscriminately. By 31st May about twenty people were being held by police. More arrests followed until early September at which point the wave of arrests accounted for 26 people.
3 later arrests Much later – on 4th October 2011 – came the arrest of the then MDC-T National Youth chairperson Solomon Madzore [now titled National Youth President] and Lovemore Taruvinga Magaya, a party youth activist. This was followed on 25th January 2012 by the arrest of MDC-T’s Glen View organising secretary, Paul Rukanda – bringing the total number of accused persons to 29.
Statements by Police and MDC-T
On 31st May, two days after the incident, Police Commissioner-General Chihuri reacted to Inspector Mutedza’s death in a speech read on his behalf at Inspector Mutedza’s funeral: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police shall not, and I repeat, shall not sit on its laurels while innocent citizens of this country, let alone police officers, are being decimated by uncouth opposition political elements in a naïve and imbecilic attempt to make our country ungovernable. Those who wish to live by the sword must be prepared to die by the sword.”
MDC-T from the beginning has consistently condemned the arrests of its officials and members on what it describes as the “trumped-up” charge of murdering Inspector Mutedza. They accuse the police of randomly arresting known MDC-T activists.
Lawyers at first denied access Police denied lawyers access to those in custody. On 2nd June 2011 an urgent application was made to the High Court for an order compelling the police to allow lawyers access to those being held or to produce them in court.
Magistrate’s court appearances
- The first batch of twelve accused persons appeared in the magistrates court on 3rd June and were initially remanded in custody on a charge of murder. Some of them showed fresh wounds and claimed brutal assaults by police. The magistrate ordered medical attention for the injured and an investigation of the assault allegations.
- Thereafter the remaining seventeen accused were taken to the magistrates court after their arrests during the period June to January, and all were initially remanded in custody.
Note: Bail could not be granted in the magistrates court because when the charge is murder, a magistrate has no power to release an accused person on bail – except with “the personal consent of the Attorney-General”. That consent was not given in the present case. This meant that applications for bail had to be made to the High Court, whose judges have the power to grant bail in murder cases.
High Court hearings for bail
- Of the 26 persons arrested by early September [20 in May and 6 others by 2nd September], the High Court released 19 on bail in July and 2 in September. One of the 19, Jeffias Moyo, found himself back in custody in February on a charge of public violence when police raided MDC-T Headquarters; he was denied bail on the new charge, having regard to his involvement in the murder case.
- The remaining 7 were denied bail on the ground that they were considered flight risks; their lawyers lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court [see below].
- The 2 arrested on 4th October, Madzore and Magaya, were placed on remand on 5th October. A bail application was promptly lodged in the High Court but, following postponements at the request of the State, was only heard by Justice Mwayera on 18th October. The State opposed bail on the grounds that both accused persons were flight risks who had contacts outside the country and that they had been on the run for five months. On 20th October, Justice Mwayera dismissed Madzore’s application, but granted Magaya’s. So Madzore continued to be kept in Chikurubi Maximum Security prison. His lawyer lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court [see below]. T
- Rukanda, arrested in January this year was also denied bail by the High Court in January – he did not appeal this.
Supreme Court hearings for bail
- The 7 whose cases appealed against denial bail by the High Court to the Supreme Court, were granted bail by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba on 17th February. Delays over official paperwork held up their release until 20th February 2012. They had spent nearly nine months in prison. Their freedom was short-lived, because on 1st March, with the other accused, they were ordered back to prison by the magistrate committing them for trial [see below].
- Mr Madzore has now been in prison for over five months; his bail appeal at the Supreme Court has been postponed.
Committal for Trial
On 1st March at Harare magistrate’s court all 29 accused were officially informed that the Attorney-General had decided to indict them for trial in the High Court on a charge of murder, and the indictment and the State’s supporting documents were served on them. The magistrate then committed them for trial and ordered that they be held in prison pending trial – as he was obliged to do by law. This in effect cancelled any previous grants of bail, and put an end to the freedom enjoyed by those accused who had succeeded in getting bail – including the 7 who had only been at liberty since 20th February. Following their return to prison these 26 accused, as they were entitled to do, applied afresh to the High Court for bail to be renewed. The hearing of this application has been postponed four times this week, and will now be dealt with before the commencement of the trial on Monday 12th March.
Mistreatment while in police custody or on remand
The defence lawyers have used remand hearings to draw attention to assaults suffered by many of the accused at the hands of the police and to failures by the prison authorities to provide appropriate medical treatment for the accused or allow treatment by private medical practitioners. At the first remand hearing injuries sustained by some of the accused were clearly visible. In court on 21st October accused Rebecca Musarurwa collapsed and had to be rushed to hospital; it emerged that she had been severely assaulted during her arrest in May and had not recovered. In December Councillor Madzokere was assaulted by a prison guard, but denied the necessary medical treatment by prison authorities. Also aired at remand hearings were defence complaints about the inhumane conditions at Chikurubi Prison, where the accused were being held, and the treatment to which they were being subjected by prison officials – such as two women accused being kept, not in the female section of Chikurubi Prison, but in the male section which houses convicted male criminals.
List of Accused Persons: Solomon Madzore, MDC-T National Youth president; Last Maengahama, MDC-T National Council and its National Executive Committee, and party Secretary for Information Communication Technology Development; Harare City councillors, Tungamirai Madzokere and Oddrey Chirombe. The others – all MDC-T – activists are: Abina Rutsito, Augustine Tengenyika, Cynthia Manjoro, Dube Zwelibanzi, Edwin Muingiri, Francis Vambai, Gabriel Shumba, Gapara Nyamadzawo, Jefias Moyo, Kerina Dewa, Lazarus Maengahama, Linda Muradzikwa, Lloyd Chitanda, Lovemore Taruvinga Magaya, Memory Ncube, Paul Nganeropa Rukanda, Phineas Nhatarikwa, Rebecca Mafikeni, Simon Mapanzure, Simon Mudimu, Stanford Maengahama, Stanford Mangwiro, Stephen Takaedzwa, Tafadzwa Billiard, Yvonne Musarurwa.
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