Detained political activist, Hopewell Chin’ono will remain in custody until August 18 when Magistrate Ngoni Nduna is expected to rule on the suitability of his lead defence lawyer to continue in that position.
The State, led by Prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi is pushing for lead lawyer, Beatrice Mtwetwa to recuse herself from the case on allegations of disrespecting the courts.
Mtetwa is alleged to have posted on her Facebook page titled Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law saying: “Where is the outrage of the international community that Hopewell Chin’ono is being held as a political prisoner?
“His life is in serious peril. Raise awareness about his unlawful imprisonment. Do not let him be forgotten. You or someone you love could be the next one abducted from your home and put in leg irons. SPEAK OUT”.
But Mtetwa, who is representing Chin’ono in a case in which he is being charged with inciting public violence, argued that the allegations of contempt, stemming from a Facebook page being run using her name, had no legal basis.
She denied being the owner of the page and was backed by her client Chin’ono who said the page belonged to a film documentary maker who is not based in Zimbabwe.
The matter has become a trial within a trial, as Mtwetwa was before the courts to re-apply bail for Chin’ono on changed circumstances.
She accused the State of “trying to choose a legal counsel for the accused which is completely unheard of.”
“Prosecutor Mabhaudhi is calling on the courts to remove the lead counsel from the case and we finalised the submissions today,” said lawyer, Roselyn Hanzi after the trial.
“The Magistrate has said that he needs time to write the ruling which he is going to deliver on Tuesday, 18 August, so that means the bail application is not going to proceed until we have the ruling and we know the position of our lead counsel Beatrice Mtetwa in this case.”
The decision by the magistrate means, Chin’ono, who was arrested with politician, Jacob Ngarivhume on the same charges, will spend yet another weekend in prison and will not know his own fate until the fate of his lawyer has been decided.
A number of attempts to have both the High Court and Magistrates Court grant them bail have so far failed.
This forced their lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to re-apply for bail on changed circumstances given that the date for the planned action passed, with the demonstrations considered a non-event.
The hearing for Chino’no’s new application began on Wednesday before Nduna following the Heroes and Defence Forces holidays while that for Ngarivhume was pushed to Monday.
But Chin’ono’s hearing took a twist when the State alleged that Mtwetwa, through a social media page being run using her name, had disrespected the courts.
Meanwhile, the High Court granted an application by Chin’ono and Ngarivhume challenging the suspension of their rights in prison, with the court ordering the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services to allow the two access to their lawyers food and clothes, within reasonable administration restrictions, access to doctors of their choice and personal protective equipment in light of the Covid-19 outbreak while in remand prison.
The ruling followed complaints by the defence that their clients were being denied time and privacy with their lawyers as well as food provided from outside prison.