Spurious treason trials dominate 2011

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The 2011 judicial year was again dominated by political trials mainly of MDC-T activists.

In one of the major rulings this year, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku quashed attempts by the State to challenge the ruling by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu acquitting MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Leslie Bennett of treason charges.

Chidyausiku said there was no evidence linking Bennett to the crimes he was accused of and the prospects of success on appeal by the Attorney-General were non-existent.

The Chief Justice was back in the limelight, when in concurrence with other Supreme Court justices Vernanda Ziyambi and Paddington Garwe, he ruled the election of MDC-T chairperson Lovemore Moyo as Speaker of Parliament was irregular.

This followed an appeal by Zanu PF’s Jonathan Moyo against a High Court ruling that had dismissed his challenge to Moyo’s 2008 victory.

But Moyo went on to retain his post in a re-arranged election brushing aside a challenge from Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo in March.

Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma became a prominent face in the courts after he was charged with criminal abuse of office for his role in the purchase of fuel from a South African company without going to tender.

Mangoma, who is also an MDC-T negotiator in the interparty talks, was also arrested in connection with a Zesa tender.

He was again acquitted of the charges by Justice Bhunu who said the State had failed to prove a case against the minister.

Another high-profile political trial was that of International Socialist Organisation co-ordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 activists charged with treason for allegedly plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Thirty-nine activists were acquitted, leaving Gwisai, Antoinette Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopeful Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto facing lesser charges of conspiracy to commit violence.

The justice delivery system took a knock in the second half of the year when magistrates and prosecutors went on strike demanding better pay.

Magistrates returned to work after their demands were met, but there was no joy for the prosecutors.

Yet another treason trial crumbled last month when the courts dismissed charges against Africom Holdings bosses Simba Mangwende and Farai Rwodzi accused of spying for the United States, Canada and Afghanistan.

They were charged together with Global Satellite Systems executive Oliver Chiku. The trio now faces lesser charges of illegally possessing, controlling or working a radio station and their trial has been set for January 18.

Journalists also became a familiar feature at the courts.

Nevanji Madanhire, editor of NewsDay’s sister paper The Standard, was arrested on two different occasions facing criminal defamation charges related to stories carried by the paper.

He was arrested alongside former reporter Patience Nyangove, Alpha Media Holdings group human resources manager Loud Ramakgapola and senior reporter Nqaba Matshazi.

MDC-T chairperson Solomon Madzore and 25 other activists were charged with the murder of police inspector Petros Mutedza, who died in May this year.

Nineteen of the activists were granted bail leaving seven, including Madzore, behind bars.

This year’s prominent criminal cases ended with the incarceration of three Gweru women, who were arrested on suspicion they were part of a syndicate of female rapists who targeted male hitchhikers.

Rosemary Chakwizira, Sophie Nhokwara and Netsayi Nhokwara, were charged alongside Thulani Ngwenya on 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault.

They are expected to stand trial on January 26.
Several Zimbabweans were also brought before the courts for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe.

The last prominent arrest for the year was that of Chimanimani West MP Lynette Karenyi who allegedly told a campaign rally the 87-year-old leader was a homosexual.