8 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Chief Justice Censures Lawyer

CHIEF Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has called for more stringent measures to stop lawyers from disrespecting the courts through reckless utterances.

He made the remarks while commenting on statements ascribed to one of the lawyers representing the 29 MDC-T activists accused of murdering police inspector Petros Mutedza in Glen View.

Mr Charles Kwaramba was recently reprimanded by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu after he reportedly granted the Daily News an interview portraying the judiciary as biased against MDC-T by not releasing the suspects on bail.

Mr Kwaramba then instructed his own lawyers to write to the Supreme Court seeking directions on how to contest Justice Bhunu's findings against him.

The Chief Justice last Thursday declined to give the directions requested and instead upheld the decision of the High Court to reprimand Mr Kwaramba.

He said the utterances ascribed to Mr Kwaramba in the Daily News article were contemptuous.

Legal practitioners who show such blatant disrespect and contempt for the courts, the Chief Justice said, had no business appearing before the courts.

"In my view, serious consideration should be given to the introduction of more stringent measures to protect the dignity of the courts from being impaired by reckless utterances," said Chief Justice Chidyausiku.

"The remarks ascribed to him do not only scandalise the learned judge but were also made while the matter was sub judice.

"I have no doubt in my mind that the statements ascribed to the applicant grossly transgressed the sub-judice rule and clearly constitute contempt of court.

"They scandalise the court by ascribing to it political motivation in its judgment. The applicant should consider himself to be lucky that he was not prosecuted for contempt of court."

Chief Justice Chidyausiku said Mr Kwaramba never issued a statement dissociating himself from the contents of the article like what is expected of someone who would have been falsely accused of saying something.

"He made no effort to correct the impression conveyed to the public that the court is partial and that the applicant is the source of the allegation. The applicant is the author of his own misfortune," ruled Justice Chidyausiku.

In the contested High Court ruling, Justice Bhunu rapped Mr Kwaramba, accusing him of smuggling politics into the courtroom and demonising the judiciary.

The judge equated his warning to a yellow card before directing the Registrar of the High Court to serve the Law Society of Zimbabwe with a copy of the judgment.

Justice Bhunu said the High Court was not a political entity, instead its mission was to dispense world class justice to all people without fear or favour.

If Mr Kwaramba was challenging the position of the law, the judge said, he should have attacked lawmakers, not the judiciary.

He, however, commended the other defence lawyer, Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, for her professionalism despite being aggressive and temperamental.

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