A HARARE magistrate was yesterday accused of not following procedure and frustrating lawyers who had volunteered to represent eight Zanu PF youths accused of burning a Zupco bus and looting property during a nationwide stayaway called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to protest against the hiking of fuel prices.
By Desmond Chingarande
Benson Bhobho, the Zanu PF youth league chairperson for ward 40 in Whitecliff, together with seven other party activists, appeared before magistrate Elijah Makomo on Tuesday facing charges of public violence, and their trial commenced immediately without being served with court papers.
Makomo on Tuesday presided over the initial appearance and immediately the matter went to trial before the same magistrate until 8pm when he remanded them in custody for continuation of proceedings. Yesterday, human rights lawyers, Gift Mutisi and Simon Simango showed up to offer legal representation for free to the accused, but the State and the magistrate allegedly refused to give the lawyers time to receive instructions from the accused as well as offer them time to go through the court record as is the norm.
The human rights lawyers unsuccessfully filed an application to have Makomo recuse himself from presiding over the matter, saying he had showed partiality in the manner he was handling the trial.
“We managed to get State papers at exactly 7am. When the trial commenced, they had not been furnished with State papers as required by the Constitution. The relevance of State papers is to inform the accused person and for him to sufficiently prepare for his defence but that did not happen. Under the circumstances, which the matter started in the full glare of the magistrate, the accused no longer feel comfortable with the magistrate,” Simango said.
“We do believe the furnishing of court papers to the accused persons is the backbone to a fair trial. One cannot be tried without State papers and this was done in the full glare of the magistrate. The accused persons are saying the honourable court is biased. The accused persons need protection from the court.”