A Harare magistrate has accused prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of being bedmates with incarcerated journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. Ngoni Nduna was giving a judgment that barred Mtetwa from representing Chin’ono directing the Law Society of Zimbabwe to deregister her when he made the utterances.
Hopewell Chinono was arrested last Month at his house for inciting public violence through the use of social media. He has been in Prison since and his bid for freedom has not been successful with one of Zimbabwe’s best Human rights Lawyers representing him.
Prior to his arrest, Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono recently published documents raising concerns that powerful individuals in Zimbabwe were pocketing from multimillion-dollar deals for essential supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Below is an extract of his judgment:
The evidence called from Mr Chin’ono and in the submissions of counsel it is clear that the wall and lead counsel are not strangers to each other. They are actually bed mates. The documentary Beatrice Mtetwa and the rule of law face book page was created to market according to Mr Chin’ono the lead counsel’s prowess as a human rights defender. Obviously the lead counsel authorised and approved its coming into existence. In that breath she acceded to posts being made on it which posts are relevant to herself. She cannot be seen assuming that Lore Cornways is posting to say now this particular post has nothing to do with her. Because the posts are offensive to the very function of courts in which lead counsel appears, she was expected to have registered her disapproval of that with the said Lori Cornways. She cannot wash her hands like Pontias Pilate of the Bible. Lead Counsel’s position is almost on all fours with counsel in Charles Kwaramba vs The Honourable Justice Bhunu N.O Sc46/2012.
The applicant a lawyer was representing some 29 accused persons. He addressed a press conference from wherein he was allegedly quoted as uttering words imputing mal-conduct against the Honourable Judge. The Honourable Judge reprimanded the applicant in his judgment. The applicant took issue with the reprimand and went with it on review to the Supreme Court. It was held as follows;
Essentially the applicant’s complaint is that the learned Judge should not have severely reprimanded him for his conduct or misconduct. The applicant does not seem to appreciate what is expected of him as a legal practitioner and an officer of the court. On the applicant’s own account, the Daily News ascribed to him the remarks it published in its newspaper. The remarks ascribed to him do not only scandalise the learned Judge but were also made while the matter was sub judice. There is a time-honoured practice which has crystallised into law that prohibits the making of inappropriate statements on matters pending before the courts. 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, in that they scandalise the court by ascribing to it political motivation in its judgment. The inescapable inference is that the remarks were made not only to bring the court into contempt in the eyes of the public but also in an attempt to influence the outcome of the bail application and consequently the course of justice. The applicant should consider himself lucky that he was not prosecuted for contempt of court.
Legal practitioners who show such blatant disrespect and contempt for the courts have 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.
Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News Correspondent