The Magistrates’ Association of Zimbabwe has demanded an immediate apology from Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana, who has labelled the association “a group of uninformed individuals”.
Cracks have since widened between the AG’s Office and the magistrates’ bench following the arrest of Mutare provincial magistrate Billiard Musakwa for releasing a suspected rapist after the state declined to prosecute.
“We want to remind the Attorney General that the bully tactics exhibited by his remarks will not sway the magistrates into making uncivilised and injudicious decisions in order to please anybody. We say hands off magistrates,” the association said.
The association, which was responding to the AG’s comments in a local daily on Tuesday, in which he said they were misguided, challenged Tomana to inform the public fully on the Musakwa saga.
“We challenge the Attorney General to inform the public correctly. He has a mandate to explain to the Zimbabwean public why his office declined to prosecute Musakwa if at all he genuinely believed the magistrate had committed an offence,” the magistrates said in the statement.
Although no comment could be obtained from Tomana, the chief law officer in the AG’s Office, Chris Mutangadura, had this to say: “We want to fight crime and serve the interest of justice. Playing the blame game affects the justice delivery system.
“Our mutual agreement must not be distracted. Whatever happened is an unfortunate event; we want to resolve it and move forward.”
However, the magistrates said they took great exception to remarks by the controversial Tomana, who has openly declared himself a Zanu PF supporter, much to the chagrin of the local, regional and international community.
“For Tomana to dismiss our association as a group of ‘uninformed individuals’ rebuking lawful process is not only a sad mishap. It is unfortunate and a misdirection to misinform the Zimbabwe public that Musakwa’s arrest and detention was a lawful process.
“If at all we are to accept that, then we have to mourn the judicial process in Zimbabwe. That simply defies logic,” said the magistrates.
Musakwa was arrested on Tuesday last week after he released a suspected rapist, Farai Gilbert Rimayi, who had been brought before the courts. Musakwa was charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.
Public prosecutor Truman Joma was the first to be arrested on Monday last week on the same charges.
Musakwa and Joma are alleged to have connived to free Rimayi during last Wednesday’s court session.
Rimayi, a prominent businessman, who was facing three rape charges and many other criminal cases, had been a fugitive from justice for months but the state refused to prosecute citing gross irregularities on the part of the police.
Joma, who was allegedly acting under instructions from the chief law officer Michael Mugabe, refused to prosecute, arguing that Rimayi had been detained beyond the stipulated legal period by the police.
Rimayi was detained for 12 days without proper documentation.
He said if the state were to continue to entertain the matter, it would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
Thus, he argued, all the six cases would continue by way of summons.
Musakwa concurred with the prosecution and refused to accept the records and marked them as “Not Taken”.
The decision by the magistrate to concur with the prosecution raised suspicions of connivance, which led to the arrest of the two judicial officers.