By Mary Taruvinga
THE High Court Tuesday ordered stay of proceedings in the trial of MDC Alliance youth activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.
Trial on the duo was set to commence on Wednesday, but the two approached the High Court asking for stay of proceedings.
Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna was told Thursday the two had obtained an order at the High Court granting the delay in the trial pending a determination on their co-accused Joanna Mamombe’s appeal.
Mamombe, who is Harare West MP, had filed for a review of Magistrate Bianca Makwande’s ruling separating her from her party colleagues in the matter.
Makwande had separated the three on the basis that Mamombe was mentally unfit to stand trial.
“We were not happy with the magistrate’s decision. So, we approached the High Court seeking stay of trial for the two. We have obtained the order. At the same time Mamombe applied for a review of the magistrate’s ruling separating her from her co-accused. So, the matter has been postponed to January 22 next year awaiting a determination on the appeal,” human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, representing the three, told journalists.
He, however, said the magistrate had misinterpreted Mamombe’s medical documents.
Mamombe said separation is prejudicial to her and her accomplices.
“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 be conducted at the same time before a magistrate other than Makwande.
The three young women were returning from a demonstration in Harare’s Warren Park suburb when they were allegedly abducted at a police roadblock.
After being taken to Harare Central Police Station, they were allegedly driven during the night by their abductors suspected to be state security agents who blindfolded them throughout the drive.
The women allege they were thrown into a pit and tortured the whole night, including being sexually attacked.
They were later found dumped near Bindura.
The prosecution is, however, accusing the three of falsifying their arrest, abduction and torture to smear Zimbabwe’s human rights record.
Meanwhile, Nduna also relaxed the reporting conditions for the three. The trio will now be reporting once a fortnight.