Joint Statement by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on the subversion of the administration of justice in Mbare

SUBVERSION OF THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN MBARE

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) are disturbed by the events that unfolded in Mbare on 30th August 2006, where a Court Order was defied by known individuals and officers from the Deputy Sheriff of Zimbabwe’s department carrying out their lawful duty were subjected to unlawful searches and eventually arrested and charged with theft by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

Background

In June 2006 some ZANU (PF) youths and other ruling party members invaded the premises of Benevolent Helping Hands Association at 111, 3rd Avenue, Mbare, Harare, and declared that all those lawfully occupying the premises were to move out to accommodate the invaders.

An Urgent Chamber Application to restore the premises to the rightful owners was filed by lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum’s Public Interest Unit.

By July 2006, the High Court of Zimbabwe had issued a final Court Order directing that the invaders leave the premises and return the same to the rightful occupiers.

The said Court Order was duly served by the Deputy Sheriff of Zimbabwe on the unlawful occupiers of the premises. They defied the Court Order and remained put until it became necessary to apply for a writ of ejectment from the same Court.

An ejectment Order to be executed by the Deputy Sheriff was duly issued by the High Court of Zimbabwe and was supposed to be executed on 30th August 2006.

Upon arriving and attempting to execute the ejectment, the Deputy Sheriff and his assistants as well as Legal Practitioners from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum were subjected to threats of violence and verbal abuse by the invaders. During the course of evicting the illegal occupiers one of them, then alleged that she was missing a cell phone.

A report was made to the ZRP Mbare Police Base Station at Mbare Musika and a police detail was deployed immediately to effect an arrest on the Deputy Sheriff and his deputies for theft, notwithstanding the fact that there was already a crime of contempt of a court order going on at the site.

The Deputy Sheriff and his men eventually completed their task but the illegal occupiers vowed to move in back to the premises, which they did. When a report was made to the Officer in Charge at Mbare Police station about the arrest of the Deputy Sheriff and the real and potential risk of contempt of court by known persons, she simply brushed off the lawyers and the Deputy Sheriff whom she accused of breaching protocol by failing to first make a courtesy call on her offices before carrying out his duties in her jurisdiction.

The Deputy Sheriff was only released on the strength of the Indemnity against his liability which was signed by the lawyers providing that any losses or destruction of property of the invaders would be met by the lawyers. This is common Practice.

What is particularly worrisome and in need of urgent attention is the following:

  • The culture of impunity by ruling party faithful of threatening court officials carrying out lawful court business and the wilful defiance of court rulings, judgments and orders with impunity;
  • Disregard for the rule of law insofar as the Zimbabwe Republic Police has failed and or neglected to carry out its lawful duties of assisting the Deputy Sheriff upon request and has even gone to the extent of refusing to ensure the compliance with the Court Order in question;
  • The failure and or neglect of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to ensure the safety of fellow Officers of Court especially the Deputy Sheriff and his Deputies when the law is quite clear that they have a legal duty to assist him in his court duties;
  • The fact that Court officials such as the Deputy Sheriff and their Deputies can be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment of arrests and searches whilst carrying out their lawful duties is cause for concern insofar as they will be reluctant to administer the directives of the courts when their safety is not guaranteed by those whose duty it is to ‘serve and to protect’.

In the premises:

  • The Commissioner of Police is called upon to institute investigations into the circumstances leading to the obstruction, by known illegal occupiers of premises, of a court official’s lawful duties; the arrest, search and denial of assistance by police officers to the Deputy Sheriff after a lawful request had been made.
  • The Commissioner of Police is further called upon to set the law in motion by ensuring that the known perpetrators of such obstruction of justice and contempt of court face the full wrath of the law.
  • The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs as well as the Head of the Judiciary are called upon to take urgent steps to seek to ensure and guarantee the safety and personal integrity of persons tasked with executing judgments and/or orders of the Courts of Zimbabwe in order to ensure that separation of powers is maintained and there is adherence to the rule of law and fair administration of justice.

Design and development supported by HURIDOCS.