JUSTICE Chinembiri Bhunu yesterday ordered the arrest of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s lawyers for contempt of court.
REPORT BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
The Electoral Court judge made a judgment directing the “Attorney-General of the Prosecuting Authority to take appropriate action according to the law” against the lawyers for filing court documents containing disparaging remarks about the judiciary.
Tsvangirai approached the court seeking an urgent order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release election material used during the July 31 poll to enable him to lodge his election petition in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt).
Lawyers that have represented Tsvangirai in recent weeks include Alec Muchadehama, Tarisai Mutangi and Advocate Lewis Uriri.
Part of Justice Bhunu’s judgment reads: “Time has come to rein in errant legal practitioners bent on bringing the court’s integrity into disrepute. That type of conduct cannot be tolerated by these courts.”
In his dossier prepared for Sadc, Tsvangirai accused the judiciary of siding with Zanu PF because the judges were appointed by Mugabe.
“The judiciary is not independent from the Executive, and politically, from Zanu PF. Since 2010, the President has appointed or elevated 23 judges to the High Court, Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court without consulting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, contrary to the requirements of the Global Political Agreement and the constitution. Consequently, the opposition doesnot view the judiciary as independent of Zanu PF.”
Bhunu’s judgment was delivered as the ConCourt presided over by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku made a determination dismissing Tsvangirai’s bid to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s re-election, declaring him duly elected. The court ordered Tsvangirai to pay the legal costs.
The ConCourt ruling paves way for Mugabe’s planned grand inauguration ceremony tomorrow.
Tsvangirai had sought to withdraw his petition saying he was unlikely to get a fair hearing in the absence of poll material he had unsuccessfully requested from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec). Chief Justice Chidyausiku, however, said according to Section 93 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a presidential petition cannot be withdrawn before it could be determined.
“It can only be finalised by the determination of the ConCourt by either declaring the election valid and swearing-in will take place within 48 hours or alternatively, by declaring the election invalid and elections will be held within 60 days,” Chief Justice Chidyausiku said.
“The purported withdrawal before determination of the matter is of no legal force. The application is dismissed with cost,” he said, adding:
“. . . Robert Mugabe is the duly elected President of Zimbabwe and is here declared the winner of that election.”
He said the consequence of the dismissal of the petition implied that the polls were free, fair and credible.
Mugabe’s lawyer Terence Hussein said after the ConCourt ruling: “The ConCourt has finally issued its decision and in doing so it has brought the whole electoral process to the end. In doing so, it has also declared President- (elect) Mugabe the winner of this presidential election”.
The application that got Tsvangirai’s lawyers in trouble had fallen foul with the Electoral Court which deemed its contents contemptuous of the judiciary.
Justice Bhunu said Tsvangirai’s “conduct in this regard is symptomatic of an unbalanced convoluted, mindset unbefitting a man of his stature and station in life”.
“It is ironic that having made those scathing disparaging remarks of and concerning the entire judiciary of this country, the applicant and his lawyers are now seeking justice before the same judiciary in which they have no confidence,” Justice Bhunu said.
“While the applicant’s reprehensible conduct in this respect may be attributable to ignorance of the law, the same cannot be said of his lawyers. As officers of the court they filed and sought to rely on the appalling document from which they now seek resile with the full knowledge that their conduct was patently unethical.
“Their conduct betrays a determined frame of mind to abuse and hold this court in contempt with scant regard of its integrity. Previous warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears. That type of conduct cannot be tolerated by these courts.”
Justice Bhunu added: “Having aligned themselves with their client’s views and his perception of this court and the entire judiciary by filing the despicable dossier of papers in court documents which have been placed before this court, the applicant’s lawyers cannot seek to dissociate themselves from their client’s contemptuous conduct. They must share collective responsibility as they appear to have acted in common purpose and seek to justify and sustain those views and perception of the judiciary in a court of law.”
Speaking after the ConCourt ruling, MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora who, together with other party officials were present when judgement was passed, maintained his party attended the ConCourt proceedings to show their respect of the institution, although they had withdrawn the petition.
He said the outcome of the court process was predetermined because Mugabe had already pledged that he would not surrender his victory and that he had already announced the inauguration date before the case was concluded.
He queried why Justice Bhunu decided to deliver his ruling on Tsvangirai’s request for access to poll material from Zec yesterday, the day the ConCourt was also making a determination on Tsvangirai’s petition.
“Why did Justice Bhunu wait for the ConCourt to deliver his ruling?” Mwonzora queried.
Tsvangirai on Monday said he withdrew his petition after realizing it would not yield fruit, charging it was “a charade”, and likening the matter to a footballer “being forced to play a football match with one leg tied”.
Mugabe won 61% of the presidential vote in the July 31 elections, while his Zanu PF party swept over two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. Tsvangirai, however, challenged the outcome, claiming massive rigging.