A Harare magistrate has disqualified top lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from representing journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on allegations that she denigrated the magistrate who is presiding over the matter.
Mtetwa was been accused of disparaging the magistrate through a Facebook account created to celebrate her human rights works.
According to the allegations, the human rights lawyer authorised the Facebook posts, which question the independence of the judiciary.
Although Mtetwa denied running the page and did so through evidence from Chin’ono who said it was created as part of a documentary with the same title, and was managed by an individual in the United States.
But Nduna blamed Mtetwa for that.
“She can’t put all the blame on Lorrie Cornway (the Facebook page administrator) and wash her hands as Pontious Pilate in the Bible,” Nduna said.
“It’s illegal to step in the shoes of a client and share the feelings. The court must guard against that,” Nduna said.
In one of the postings read out in court, Mtetwa allegedly said Chin’ono was a political prisoner whose rights were being trampled on.
The magistrate directed prosecutors to write to the Law Society of Zimbabwe to investigate Mtetwa.
Chin’ono lost the initial bail application both at the Magistrate Court and the High Court. In passing the High Court ruling, Justice Tawanda Chitapi took aim at Mtetwa.
“Whatever the legal practitioner intended to convey by the attack on the learned magistrate, it is unprofessional for a legal practitioner to mount a personal attack on a judicial officer. Legal practitioners are officers of the court and should not be complicit in demonising and attacking the integrity of the judicial system,” the judge added.
In response to Nduna’s ruling, Mtetwa said; “We’re going to challenge the decision because we don’t agree with it in a whole lot of sense, but it means the right to legal representation has been severely curtailed. …And it has been curtailed by courts which are supposed to be expanding that right.”
Meanwhile, Chin’ono has appointed Advocate Taona Nyamakura to be his lead lawyer. The matter will continue on Wednesday with the journalist who is accused of inciting public violence being cross examined on his experience in remand prison. The court proceedings are being held in camera.