/ 28 March 2013

Beatrice Mtetwa’s bail hearing upstages her MDC clients

Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.
Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.

Mtetwa's bail hearing on Monday was attended by top officials from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) diplomats, local and international journalists and United States human-rights lobbyist Kerry Kennedy, the child of Robert Kennedy. Kerry's father, Robert, was brother to the 35th president of the United States. 

In sharp contrast, only family members and a handful of journalists, but no television cameras, were present at the Tuesday bail hearing of the four officials, Thabani Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma and Warship Dumba.

The hearing was postponed to Wednesday after the judge presiding over the case recused himself saying he had worked with three of the accused when he was their senior prosecutor years ago.

Jayson Shumba, a relative of Dumba, who attended the Wednesday hearing where the four were released on bail, said the family was worried by the lack of enthusiasm shown by MDC-T senior officials and party supporters in following the case. "We know the leadership is paying for top lawyers, but the party needs to do more to support the family of these people. Not many have turned up in court, unlike in the case of Mtetwa. People should be outside holding placards, because how can someone be arrested for working in the office of the prime minister?" said Shumba.  

He said Dumba and those arrested with him were victims of political persecution.

Relatives of the other accused were reluctant to speak to the media, saying that they feared reprisal from state security agents who they said were present in court. 

Alec Muchedehama, the lawyer representing the four, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday there was suspicion by some government officials that his clients had information that could expose them and derail the government's indigenisation programme. "There is fear that the information they have could sink some people in Zanu-PF," said Muchadehama, whose clients are being charged with impersonating police.

The four allegedly had dossiers implicating top Zanu-PF officials as well as police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri and attorney general Johannes Tomana.

Thabani Mpofu
Thabani Mpofu (42), is a legal advisor in the research department in Tsvangirai's office.

Previously, he was a senior public prosecutor based at the Harare Magistrates Court. He left the attorney general's office in 2003 amid allegations he had acted in favour of the defence in two separate cases involving an MDC legislator and a foreign journalist. At the time, he said he was receiving death threats for exercising his discretion as a law officer.

Mpofu was the second state prosecutor to desert the Harare Magistrates Court following the departure of his colleague, Kenne Muponda, in 2001 after he was allegedly threatened by war veterans over a case he was handling.

Warship Dumba 
Warship Dumba (49) is the MDC councillor for Ward 17 Mount Pleasant. 

Dumba hit the headlines in 2011 after leading a Harare city council special investigation into alleged corrupt land deals involving Local Government Minister Ignatious Chombo and Phillip Chiyangwa, a cousin to President Robert Mugabe. The MDC-T cadre chaired the special committee set up by the Harare municipality to probe land deals parcelled out under the tenure of the Harare Commission run by acting mayor Sekesai Makuvarara.

When Dumba and his team gave the incriminating report to the police to investigate, they were arrested instsead, as well as the journalists who covered the story. In March of that year, Chombo claimed to have sacked Dumba and Casper Takura, another Harare councillor, accusing them of dishonesty, fraud and mismanagement of council funds.

Dumba was instrumental in the election of Jameson Timba, the MP for Mount Pleasant, who is the minister of state in Tsvangirai's office. 

Mehluli Tshuma
Mehluli Tshuma (46) is also a former senior public prosecutor and member of the Zimbabwe Law Officers Association. He is a research officer in the prime minister's office.

He was suspended by attorney general Tomana in 2011, together with Derek Charamba, a public prosecutor based in Masvingo who doubled up as the secretary general of the law association, association president Leopold Mudisi, Patrobes Dube and Musekiwa Mbanje.

Tomana charged the five leaders with defiance, misconduct and inciting workers to stage a boycott that lasted two weeks. They successfully appealed to the high court to lift their suspensions, but Tomana has appealed the ruling. 

Felix Matsinde
Felix Matsinde (36) does not work for Prime Minister Tsvangirai, but is a government law officer currently on suspension after being fingered for a cripping industrial action in 2011 which embarrassed Tomana.