HARARE – Harare West MP Joanna Mamombe has petitioned the High Court challenging a decision by a Harare magistrate to separate her trial from that of two other activists.
Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri face charges of faking their abduction and torture by state security agents in May, when they disappeared after attending a rally in Harare.
They deny the charges, and accuse the state of mounting a spirited cover-up.
Magistrate Bianca Makwande separated the trio for trial purposes after doctors said Mamombe was not mentally fit to stand trial.
Mamombe is seeking a review of the magistrate’s ruling and has filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court. She accuses Makwande of bias and malice.
She said the magistrate failed to interpret her medical report.
“The basis of the application is that there was no proper application by the state upon which the application was granted,” Mamombe’s lawyers are arguing.
“Makwande’s reasons for ordering the separation of trials was based on a wrong reading of the medical reports. Makwande had no legal or other basis for granting the application. The magistrate also grossly erred in exceeding her discretion when she ordered the separation of trials.”
Mamombe was being treated by Dr Fungisai Mazhandu when she failed to attend court. Makwande was not convinced she was unwell, and ordered her locked up for two weeks at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Prison where she was examined by three doctors.
“My remand in custody for purposes of medical examination was calculated make me suffer for reasons best known to her,” Mamombe says in an affidavit. “I must also advise the court that because of the treatment and help that I am getting from the doctors, I am getting much better.
“However, because of the nature of the problem and from a medical point of view, I need to remain under treatment and constant monitoring until I am fully healed.”
Mamombe said she cannot be tried separately because their defence is the same.
“Our defences are interrelated and intertwined. With respect, I cannot find any proper reason for Makwande’s findings other than that she was motivated by malice and bias. Her decision to separate the trials was also capriciously arbitrary and illogical,” she added.
She prayed for an order setting aside the magistrate’s ruling and for an order directing that their trials will be conducted at the same time before a magistrate other than Makwande.
The three women were returning from a demonstration in Harare’s Warren Park suburb when they say they were arrested at a police roadblock for breaching Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
After being taken to Harare Central Police Station, they say they were taken that night by several men who blindfolded them and drove them into the bush. The women claim they were thrown in a pit and tortured, including having pistols inserted in their privates.
They were found dumped near Bindura after two days.
The prosecution however accuses the women of falsifying their arrest, abduction and torture to sully Zimbabwe’s human rights record internationally.