New Zimbabwe (London)

29 March 2014

Zimbabwe: New Twist to Chitungwiza "Egg Witchcraft" Case

A CHITUNGWIZA man, who was Wednesday jailed for nine months after being caught allegedly practising witchcraft within the Chitungwiza magistrates' courts premises, could walk free soon, after his case was said to have caught the attention of judicial authorities who questioned his conviction.

Lovemore Jochoma, 27, of Unit G in Chitungwiza, was caught "red-handed" while preparing to smash an egg to perform a ritual inside the Chitungwiza Magistrates court's premises.

He admitted to the trial court he was acting on the instructions of a prophetess who told him to perform the bizarre act to charm the courts into setting him free on domestic violence charges he was due to answer to.

Chitungwiza court staff, who were still confused about the mysterious death of a resident magistrate the previous week, quickly alleged witchcraft, something that led to Jochoma's eventual prosecution and 'excessive' sentencing.

His matter, which was covered in the local media, provoked a legal debate with experts arguing the court had no legal basis to try witchcraft suspects without seeking expert evidence from traditional medicine practitioners.

The arguments have also reached judicial power corridors, with reports suggesting the sentence could be quashed by the High Court.

Ordinarily, in cases where one is sentenced to between three and 12 months imprisonment, their court record is automatically taken to the High Court which sees if real or substantial justice has been met.

This however excludes cases where one is legally represented or where a company is the accused.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi confirmed in a telephone interview with NewZimbabwe.com he was aware of the particular case and that the court record was on its way to the High Court but refused to shed more light on the matter.

"l have not looked at the record yet," Mutevedzi said.

"I am not allowed to comment and would not be aware if the case has gone for review or not but ordinarily, finished cases would go for review within seven days of their conclusion."

Courts sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told NewZimbabwe.com the matter has infuriated authorities who were embarrassed by the apparent miscarriage of justice by the magistrate, who worsened it by the excess sentencing.

"There is a feeling that this is an extraordinary case that came to the attention of administrative authorities who then swiftly took action to have the wrong conviction set aside," said the source.

"The general feeling is that the magistrate who handled the case improperly exercised his discretion, something generally regarded as an affront to notions of justice."

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