The Human Rights Forum, a coalition of sixteen human rights NGOs, views with grave concern the reports that Magistrates in Manicaland declined to preside over the case in which the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is alleged to have attempted to influence the withdrawal of charges relating to incidents of violence in Makoni Constituency.
The conduct by the magistrates in Manicaland is further testimony of the current undesirable situation that exists in Zimbabwe where the independence of the judiciary has been compromised by the interference of the Executive. This also goes against the doctrine of the Rule of Law, which advocates for an independent judiciary free from influence from other quarters most, particularly the Executive. In this instance, the withdrawal of the charges against the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs seems to imply that the Minister is above the law. The right to equality before the law is fundamental to any just and democratic society and is a pillar upon which the doctrine of the Rule of Law is founded.
The Human Rights Forum urges the Government of Zimbabwe to take positive steps to ensure that the doctrine of the Rule of Law is upheld at all times and that due process of the law is followed. While we welcome the report that a retired magistrate will now preside over the case in question, it is still a matter of grave concern that the current bench has declined to preside in this matter.