/ 8 May 2014

The state vs Beatrice Mtetwa – again

Defiant: Beatrice Mtetwa.
Defiant: Beatrice Mtetwa.

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa says she will oppose the state’s decision to appeal against her acquittal on charges of allegedly obstructing justice.

Mtetwa, whose arrest in March last year drew international condemnation, was charged with contravening the Criminal Law Act after an altercation with police who were searching the home of a Movement for Democratic Change official, one of Mtetwa’s clients. Mtetwa was acquitted by Harare provincial magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa in November.

Mugwagwa said that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had no case against Mtetwa.

But prosecutor-general Johannes Tomana, who heads the NPA, has filed an application in the high court, seeking leave to appeal the acquittal.

Allegations of shouting at police
In the application, Tozivepi Mapfuwa of the NPA, representing Tomana, argued that Mugwagwa “misdirected” herself when she granted the application, because the state had given evidence that Mtetwa had disturbed the police in execution of their duties.

The state alleges that Mtetwa had shouted at police officers: “Stop whatever you are doing, it’s unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic.”

It was claimed she called the police “confused cockroaches” and told them, “Murimbwa dzaMugabe [you are Mugabe’s dogs]”, which the state says was meant to hinder the officers.

The state says the evidence of the three state witnesses, Luckson Mukwazhi, Wilfred Chibage and Ngatirwe Mamiza – all police officers – materially corroborated each other on the fact that Mtetwa closed the gate at the Westgate residence to prevent Chibage from leaving the premises with some evidence.

Mtetwa said: “I am obviously opposing the application. They are targeting a number of us as they are also challenging [deputy chief justice Luke] Malaba’s refusal to give them leave to appeal against his discharge a few years ago.”

She said her opposing papers would be lodged by Friday.

“This is selective application of the law, where the NPA will vigorously pursue human rights offenders but vigorously resist prosecuting criminals who wield political power and connections,” Mtetwa said.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the legal campaign against Mtetwa confirms that prosecutorial authorities remain unprofessional and biased against human rights lawyers.