Woes for pros­e­cu­tors mount

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Mashudu Net­sianda

LAWYERS in the Civil Di­vi­sion of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s (AG) Of­fice have once again come un­der fire fol­low­ing com­ments by a High Court judge vent­ing his anger over their ca­sual ap­proach on mat­ters of na­tional im­por­tance.

Jus­tice Fran­cis Bere said lawyers from the AG’s Of­fice were fail­ing to treat mat­ters of pub­lic im­por­tance with the se­ri­ous­ness they de­serve af­ter they once again failed to file their heads of ar­gu­ment in a mat­ter in­volv­ing Sex­ual Rights Cen­tre and the po­lice.

“I am re­ally wor­ried about the man­ner in which lawyers from the Civil Di­vi­sion in the AG’s Of­fice con­duct them­selves es­pe­cially when it comes to fil­ing heads of ar­gu­ment on se­ri­ous mat­ters that af­fect the na­tion,” said Jus­tice Bere.

The AG’s Of­fice de­fied a di­rec­tive is­sued two weeks ago by Jus­tice Ni­cholas Mathonsi who or­dered them to file heads on be­half of Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ig­natius Chombo, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner-Gen­eral Au­gus­tine Chi­huri and Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Fun­gai Dengu, the of­fi­cer com­mand­ing po­lice in Bu­l­awayo Cen­tral Dis­trict who were cited as re­spon­dents in the mat­ter.

Sex­ual Rights Cen­tre is seek­ing an or­der sanc­tion­ing a march by its mem­bers in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Day to End Vi­o­lence against Sex Work­ers in De­cem­ber. They also want an or­der declar­ing the pro­hi­bi­tion of the march by the po­lice a vi­o­la­tion of their rights.

In its ap­pli­ca­tion through lawyers Phulu and Ncube Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers, Sex­ual Rights Cen­tre said po­lice had no le­gal ba­sis to bar its mem­bers from stag­ing a march, ar­gu­ing that the cops’ ac­tions was a vi­o­la­tion of their Con­sti­tu­tional rights.

Humphrey Melusi Ndondo, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s di­rec­tor, in his found­ing af­fi­davit, said the march sought to bring to the fore the chal­lenges faced by sex work­ers in the coun­try as they go through their day to day busi­ness.

Jus­tice Bere said he was now con­tem­plat­ing rop­ing in the Law So­ci­ety of Zim­babwe to as­sist the court by sec­ond­ing a lawyer to file heads on be­half of the re­spon­dents.

‘‘We are con­sid­er­ing invit­ing a friend of the court via the Law So­ci­ety of Zim­babwe to file the heads,” he said.

Jus­tice Bere post­poned the mat­ter to Oc­to­ber 6 and di­rected the reg­is­trar of the High Court to or­der the Civil Di­vi­sion in the AG’s Of­fice to im­me­di­ately file their heads of ar­gu­ment.

Last Fri­day, Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral Dr Au­gus­tine Chi­huri has said the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice has some­times been found want­ing when han­dling crim­i­nal cases, es­pe­cially fol­low­ing re­cent vi­o­lent protests. Last week, the Deputy Chief Jus­tice Luke Mal­aba also crit­i­cised the AG’s Of­fice for tak­ing a lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach when rep­re­sent­ing the Gov­ern­ment.

The Deputy CJ’s cen­sure res­onates with many who have raised con­cern with the AG’s Of­fice in the wake of the botch­ing of sev­eral cases where the State lost not on mat­ters of law, but through wil­ful in­com­pe­tence of State coun­sels.

The AG’s Of­fice has on sev­eral oc­ca­sions been slammed for al­leged bungling and in­com­pe­tence which re­sulted in the Gov­ern­ment los­ing cases un­nec­es­sar­ily. -@mash­nets

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